‘Tennis doesn’t need umpires or linesmen’


John McEnroe believes there is no reason why tennis can’t do without umpires or human line judges, saying the sport has the equipment and technology to make “accurate” calls without human intervention.

Hawk-Eye electronic video line calling system – which determines if a ball is in or out – has been used in tennis since the 2006 season and advancement in technology has resulted in big tournaments like the US Open removing human line judges and replacing them with Hawk-Eye Live in recent years.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner McEnroe sees no reason why the sport can’t go even further and remove umpires.

Speaking to the Radio Times, the tennis great said: “I think that tennis is one of the few sports where you don’t need umpires or linesmen. If you have this equipment, and it’s accurate, isn’t it nice to know that the correct call’s being made?”

Hawk-eye technology uses various camera angles to trace the tennis the ball’s trajectory and it takes away any debate about whether a ball was in or out.

McEnroe was known for clashing with chair umpires, line judges, supervisors and opponents during his heyday with most of the arguments starting over dubious calls – according to him anyway.

One of his most famous on-court moments came on the back of a controversial call at Wimbledon in 1981 when he shouted “you cannot be serious” at the umpire.

And even today he insists: “That ball was on the line. Chalk flew up.”

The American believes if he had Hawk-eye when he was playing, he would have been more successful, but there is also a catch as he would have been “boring”.

He added: “Had I had it from the very beginning, I would have been more boring, but I would have won more.”

The human element will remain in tennis for a few more years as the ATP is in the process of replacing line judges as the powers that be have confirmed that automatic decision-making technology will become mandatory at all tournaments from 2025.

“The move is set to optimise accuracy and consistency across tournaments, match courts and surfaces, for players competing in both main draw and qualifying events,” the tennis body said in a statement earlier this year.

“The decision was supported by extensive research conducted by ATP across tennis stakeholders, including fans, which identified accuracy and consistency as the most important factors in assessing different line-calling systems.”

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