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Tennis great John McEnroe, known as the “Superbrat” in the late 1970s and 1980s for questioning every call under the sun, told SportTechie he wished he had Hawk-Eye’s automated linesmen Innovation 40 years ago.
In fact, he claims it would have changed his career.
“Hawk-Eye is something where if you know you’ll get the right call even if it’s [against you], it’s comforting to me for the players – that’s why I think it’s good, ” McEnroe said after the Michelob ULTRA McEnroe vs. McEnroe exhibition, where he faced former avatars of himself. . “Honestly, if they had Hawk-Eye when I played, I think I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today doing a Michelob ULTRA [time-travel event] because I would have been more boring. But I would have won more titles. I think that’s what would have happened. I think the energy I spent doing this [arguing with line judges and umpires], if 15% of this concentration was in the right place, I think my results would have been better. But, as I said, I would have been more boring.
Hawk-Eye’s optical tracking cameras were first introduced to the ATP Tour in 2006, but only when a player asked for a challenge. In those early years there were vocal critics such as Roger Federer, who at Wimbledon in 2007 claimed that automated linesmen were “killing him”.
In 2017, the Hawk-Eye Live system was tested for the first time full-time for every call at the Next Gen ATP Finals. Then, during the 2020 pandemic tennis season, its use was accelerated and implemented at the Masters, US Open and ATP Tour Finals.
Get the thumbs up from McEnroe – the ultimate authority on tennis tantrums, who is best known for his Wimbledon rant “You can’t be serious!” – is sort of a development. McEnroe strongly believes Hawk-Eye’s latest technology is beyond reproach.
“It doesn’t seem to have taken anything away from the interaction,” McEnroe told SportTechie. “The public seems to like it. They still growl at calls. They will continue to do so even though in some tournaments now you can’t even question the call. It’s either called in or out, and it’s completely cut out [arguing] outside. And then they show reruns [to confirm it]. One hundred percent of the time, whatever it is called, it will never be changed. A bit like when I had to deal with referees.
Hawk-Eye was clearly on McEnroe’s mind during his Michelob ULTRA event when he played five virtual matches against his own avatars from 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984, and 1992. When Avatar McEnroe from 1992 actually questioned a call, the 2022 McEnroe laughed and told his old self, “There were no challenges in 1992.”