back to article Hawkeye technology turns tennis into a cartoon

In those archaic days before tennis adopted the Hawkeye ball tracking system, the TV audience could have some fun with close line calls. Following a controversial shot, we'd receive a number of slow-motion replays from various angles and get to make up our own minds as to whether or not the lines person was a dolt. But, in the …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Jon Brindley

    "Wimbledon being more or less an anomalous joke"

    Despite it apparently being considered by some to be a "joke", Wimbledon is still the most prestigious Open in the entire tennis season.

    I'm by no means a tennis fan, but I don't think you can call the main event in a season a joke. It'd be like calling something a "World Series" when one nation (and one team from another nation) play it...

  2. Seán

    Preparation H

    It seems from the general level of cantankerous displeasure running through the article that a dab of the right stuff in the right place may be called for.

  3. Chad H.

    hawkeye technology

    wonder if they're using radar to make those calls...

    Mines the one that says property of the 4077th m*a*s*h on it

  4. michael W


    this seems to dig up an issue that isn't really there. Or of someone that is a bit of a technophobe and is scared of the oncoming robot invasion.

    The whole reason hawkeye is used is because we can't tell if a shot is in or not accurately enough whether we are looking at it with just our eyes or the added use of slow-mo footage.

    Yeah sure it might be nice to have yet MORE slow-mo footage shown (side note, i commented to my brother that the BBC seem to show EVERYTHING in slow-mo for the tennis, it was like they had just received a high fps camera for christmas and so used to to show anything from the tennis, to a pigeon landing, all the way to simply the clouds passing by :P )

    I'm all for advanced detection setups like hawkeye and the sooner they introduce it into footbal for goal line decisions et al the better

  5. The Mighty Spang


    the slow-mo is blurry? then add another camera, boost it's gain and increase the shutter speed. overall image quality would become worse but you'd see the ball sharper.

    this is a fundimental mistake DV videographers make when shooting stuff for slo-mo. slowing down in post will always look worse than the slow-mo film equivalent unless you increase that damn shutter speed.

    as for "Wimbledon being more or less an anomalous joke" because of it's surface - ffs what's wrong with a natural surface? or perhaps people should always appear in courts in underground car parks?

    mind you if you said "why do people care about wimbledon but don't give a monkey's about the queen's club (artois championships)" i'd back you there.. a couple of weeks before and apparantly pointless....

  6. Adam Williamson
    Thumb Down


    Okay, by your argument, the French Open is an anomaly too, right? Because you can say the exact same thing: everyone shows up and gets beaten by the guy with the best clay court game.

    So out of four major tournaments, by your criteria, half of them are anomalies. That's a fairly odd result, I'd say.

    The real travesty is how damn slow they've made the grass. As a serve and volley player, it'd be nice to see at least ONE tournament left where the classic style of playing the game has a vague shot at winning (let's face it, Pat Rafter was the last serve volleyer to likely have a shot at winning Wimbledon). Can't complain about the amazing baseline match Rafa and Roger served up, but come on - they can do that at all the other three majors. Watching Sampras play at Wimbledon was always a joy for me.

    Jon: the teams that play for the World Series may now be almost all American (there were two Canadian teams up to a few series ago), but baseball is an international sport, and the World Series is the most prestigious event in the sport. There are also major league players from all over the globe - many from Latin America and Cuba, of course, but there are many major leaguers from Canada, several from Japan, and others from Taiwan, Australia, and many other countries (heck, there've even been a few UK-born players). There's nothing really wrong with the name.

  7. Adam
    Thumb Up


    Missing the point michael W.....the point being the technology is being thrust upon us as the solution, when doubt exists as to its actual accuracy. Its not very sporting.

  8. David Webb

    Previous winners

    Whilst there are exceptional players (Federer, Sampras, Borg) who dominate, there are also players who surprise us. This year it was actually a Scot getting to his first finals, 2001 Ivanisevic entered as a wildcard, 02, Hewitt. Wimbledon is about the crowd, the atmosphere, the occasion, and this year, probably the best final ever recorded on TV.

    Who knows if Nadal will go on to dominate it, who knows if Federer will be back next year, who knows if both will be knocked out to a wildcard, that is the beauty of Wimbledon, where even the best (Sampras) can be knocked out in the 4th round by someone no one remembers today.

  9. ratfox


    Are you actually trying to say it's a shame that Federer and Nadal have a rival at their level, because it makes it more difficult to beat records?

    Would you prefer to have only one good player, and all the others worth crap, just so you could declare the guy "best player of all time" after ten years of one-sided matches?

    About the Hawkeye issue, all systems are faillible. But at least, we can assume the computer treats both players the same (unless the program was hacked). Referees being human, they have a high risk of favoring a player, even unconsciously.

  10. Adrian Esdaile

    Final solutions

    I have three:

    1. Use all-human refs and ball-kiddies; and just accept human fallibility.

    2. Use all-robotic refs and hawkeyes; and just accept the shining perfection of digital robotics.

    3. Combine Tennis, Foxhunting, Waterpolo and Target Shooting and make a sport that is actually worth watching.

  11. Jack Prichard

    Places in history

    Firstly, Wimbledon ROCKS. It is the only Grand Slam at which the players ware whites and that is all good. White not your sponsors favourite colour? Too bad.

    Secondly, a TRUE place in history is not earned by stats, that's for geeks. It is earned by titanic struggle and for that you need a worth opponent. Remember Mohammed Ali's win-loss-KO record? Probably not. Remeber The Rubble in The Jungle? I'll bet you do. The Nadal Vs Federa forces them to be better and gives us better games. It should cement their place in history not hurt it.

    Enough said


  12. Joshua
    Paris Hilton


    Firstly, the BBC's coverage was obviously the same as the NBC, as we only got the Hawkeye replays whenever a challenge was made. Personally, I don't have a problem with the cartoon version for two reasons:

    a) at least it's the same error rate for both players

    b) we can quickly get back to the game rather than arguing the nuances of a smidgen this way or that from a slow-mo blurry pic.

    Secondly, If they could figure out a way of doing the same for dangerous tackles/penalty appeals in Rugby and Football, it'd result in much less arguing. Slow-mo tackles tend to make something look far more malicious and bone-crunching than the reality, as the sense of inertia is increased, as well as the apparent time available to change direction or avoid a collision after committing to a tackle.

    As for Adam Williamson's assertion that a few foreign players makes the "World Series" a legitimate title, perhaps we should rename the English Premiership to the Football World Series? Some would also suggest it's the most prestigious, as well as being full of foreigners. Weak argument, sorry.

    Paris, cos she could probably hold her own night vision "World Series", in slow motion, and with a cartoon style that's more appealing than the reality.

  13. RichyS
    Paris Hilton

    Seems to be contradictory

    This seems a very contradictory article to me. Vance complains about the slight inaccuracy of Hawkeye. Yet anything in life is going to have a measure of inaccuracy -- I bet the human eye (even with the benefit of slow motion replays) is way more inaccurate than +/- 5mm. And the key thing about Hawkeye is that it is a consistent inaccuracy -- no room for human emotion (e.g. 'that was such a good shot, it would be a shame to call it out'). With Hawkeye, as many will be called out as in -- over the course of a match, the debatable calls (and how many are decided by 5mm anyway) will even out.

    Having decided that a pure statistical variance of error is not okay, Vance goes on to decide that a pure statistical method of deciding tennis greats is. As Jack Prichard points out, greatness is not measured by how many you beat, but who you beat. That is way many people (myself included) consider Sir Stirling Moss to be a greater racing driver (no F1 world championships) than Michael Schumacher (7 times F1 World Champion).

    Paris, 'cos the surface is an anomaly there too. New balls please...

  14. Graham Wood
    IT Angle

    @Adam Williamson

    There are players from all over the world playing football in the UK. Should we rename our top league the 'world cup' since that would cover all the world?

    No, that would be silly (in case you were wondering).

    The "World Series" should include TEAMS from around the world, not just players.

  15. Man Outraged

    Puff of chalk?

    TO answer your question, sometimes. Sometimes the BBC showed a slow motion replay of a call, as well as the Hawkeye decision. In the game between Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet, Hawkeye gave a ball out but the replay on BBC clearly showed a puff of chalk (or titanium pigment or whatever they use to mark the courts).

  16. ambrosen

    The Rubble in The Jungle.

    Wow, rubble in the Jungle, that sounds hardcore!

  17. shay mclachlan

    You cannot be serious, you are the pits.

    Todays players are wimps, John McEnroe wouldnt have taken any crap from Hawkeye.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    'The Rubble in the Jungle'?

    A right old Barney that was :)

    Perhaps one day Wimbledon will be umpired, played *and* watched entirely by robots. Fanciful maybe, but I can dream, can't I?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    NBC? Why not actually make this relevant to the domain, the location of the actual championship and a large majority of your readership and talk about the BBC. You know, the BRITISH broadcasting corporation. It's in England (that's near Wimbledon), and shows more of Wimbledon than pretty much any other broadcaster worldwide.

  20. Nigel Kneale

    Do as they do in Cricket for LBW decisions

    Show the real video first immediately followed by Hawkeye.

    I can't see what the problem is beyond adding a few seconds to the proceedings.

  21. Robert Grant

    @Adam Williamson

    "Jon: the teams that play for the World Series may now be almost all American (there were two Canadian teams up to a few series ago), but baseball is an international sport, and the World Series is the most prestigious event in the sport. There are also major league players from all over the globe - many from Latin America and Cuba, of course, but there are many major leaguers from Canada, several from Japan, and others from Taiwan, Australia, and many other countries (heck, there've even been a few UK-born players). There's nothing really wrong with the name."

    By this logic, I propose we rename the English football league to be the World League; it meets this definition of "world" far more than the World Series :)

  22. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Sport? ....... You cannot be serious. Just ask McEnroe .... who milks it as well as so many others

    "Missing the point michael W.....the point being the technology is being thrust upon us as the solution, when doubt exists as to its actual accuracy. Its not very sporting.".... By Adam Posted Wednesday 9th July 2008 01:04 GMT


    Surely everyone is missing the point that sport televised is now big business needing new turnover/gimmicks/faces to generate sales in ....... well, everything that they can get associated with it.

  23. Pete Silver badge

    Shock news; NBC doesn't screen crap !!!

    > The argument against showing the slow-motion replays is that they're crap.

    Luckily for us, none of the TV channels in the UK follow this radical approach - we'd be back to only 2 TV stations and a couple of hours viewing each night if they did.

  24. Chris
    Paris Hilton

    @michael W - slowmo

    You're not on your own with the thoughts on the BBC's continual use of 'moody' slow mo' shots. I reckon they were for the benefit of HD viewers myself, but they just got on my tits with it, thankfully, didn't seem to happen as much in the final though.

    As for the article itself, mountain out of mole-hill, seems to me. As someone mentioned, bias, conscious or not can happen when humans get involved, the machine suffers no such emotions. Close calls are inevitable with tiny balls travelling in excess of 100mph, the hawk-eye system introduces some fairness, and levels things out a little, after all either side could benefit from the same 5mm tolerance. Besides which, pre hawk-eye, was it any better? Even if you could determine accurately from a replay that a call was wrong, did it make any difference to the call? Not one bit, so what's the big deal? Aw, boo, you didn't see the replay! Get a PVR, rewind and replay to your hearts content, and stop bloody whining. (still won't change the outcome though will it?)

    Paris, cause I'm sure she knows all about using cameras to get results

  25. Brian Griffiths

    Played by robots?

    "Perhaps one day Wimbledon will be umpired, played *and* watched entirely by robots. Fanciful maybe, but I can dream, can't I?"

    That'll be The Borg then.....

  26. Kris Kirkbride
    Thumb Down

    Get it on BBC3 or something

    Boring, boring, boring.

    A bunch of toffs and people who think they're middle-class watching tennis for 2 weeks a year and having NO interest in it the rest of the year.

    Add to that the self-righteous Jingoistic vomitfest and its TV ruined for a fortnight.

    Still i suppose it *beats* the Beebs endless crappy crime/period dramas.....

  27. Richard Porter

    How accurate are the lines?

    Aren't the white lines put down by a man pushing a cart which is depositing white chalky stuff on blades of grass? How accurate is that?

  28. W

    Ad Block

    I, for one, welcome our magnolia-clad (with subtle advertisment) overlords. Or something.

    To be honest, the introduction of Hawkeye tech in sport is the least of my worries. For me, just being able to concentrate on some sport without the distraction of ads every three seconds was an absolute pleasure.

    And whaddya know? Wimbledon is hailed as the most prestigious events on the tennis calendar.

    The only product-related quandry I came across was when Serena Williams took a drink from an evian water bottle but the drink was orange. It would seem that whatever your preffered mid-game drink, it has to be drunk from an evian bottle. Felt ever-so-slightly sinister, but I'll take that over a clunky animation flashing away in the background telling me about the latest odds for the match.

    During footy on TV, as much as I try, I invariably find my eyes wandering to the animated advertising hoardings. And it's annoying as hell. They're the equivalent of splashover flash ads.

    And I remember where I saw it first: Albania v England World Cup qualifier in March 2001. And I remember it in a bad way. It wasn't just me. Channel 5 (rightly) got a heap of stick at the time, but LED pitchside ads are now commonplace. Once we're desesitised to the flashing LED ads, something more intrusive will inevitably take it's place. Any suggestions?

    Maybe we could have some reality TV rejects, naked, using the bodily excretions of others to daub the name of the match sponsors onto the hoardings with their bare hands.

    Desperate cries of "look at me!" are vulgar and undermine their intended message.

    Less is more, guys. Classiness is appealing.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Adrian Esdaile

    'Combine Tennis, Foxhunting, Waterpolo and Target Shooting and make a sport that is actually worth watching.'

    Now that mate - is genius.

  30. Ross Ryles

    Video not good enough?

    "You can't really see if the ball is in or out on a video replay"

    To quote the ever reliable wikipedia:

    "All Hawk-Eye systems are based on the principles of triangulation using the visual images and timing data provided by at least four high speed video cameras located at different locations and angles around the area of play."

    So why can't they show the footage that is used as the source data for hawkeye? If those are blurry too then that rather suggests the system isn't too accurate.

  31. Smallbrainfield

    That must be the shortest answer ever from amanfromMars

    Clearly not a fan of tennis either.

  32. Alexander
    Paris Hilton

    so HD slow mo's are blurry

    having watched the tennis on BBC HD and can be 100% positive that no replays i saw where blurry, I also was bemussed by some of the hawkeye calls and their postioning which in some cases was miles off where the ball actually was, quater of inch seemed more like a foot.

    Paris because even she does not need technology to recognise 12 inch's.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    1) The NBC footage was cribbed directly from the Beeb. Though in fairness I suppose they could have forced their own replays. It's much the same system as they use in F1. There is a single director that controls the footage, which is why there is bias in the feeds that we get for F1 (for example, Spanish Grand Prix's have a lot of footage of Alonso) - individual countries have the option of providing their own commentary though.

    2) Hawk-Eye is ruled to be inarguable (it that's a word). The average error margin is quoted as 3.6mm from their website (as Wikipedia loving puts it, 3.6mm is the fluff of the ball.

    3) As pointed out by many people above, it's the most non-bias system available. No person/system is ever going to be "perfect"

    4) If you think Federer was grumpy this year, look at last year's Wimbledon final when he tried to get the system turned off!

    @michael W - regarding using it in football, IIRC it would never be used in football. Football rules as defined by FIFA are meant to be used in every game, from World Cup, down to games that are not televised. Ultimately what Hawk-Eye has done is change the rules of tennis for some events which FIFA have been reluctant to do (so far).

  34. Pete Forman

    Why not both?

    A good way forward would be to display the Hawkeye result superimposed on slow-mo video.

  35. FlatSpot


    All yawn, yawn rubbish.. the best match was the Girls' Singles Final won by Laura Robson. At least it was played in good spirit and GBR won! How cares about 130mph serve games.. dull as....

    Anybody remember when sport was about having fun ??

  36. Chris Hunt

    Wimbledon a joke?

    "The players head to grass for one month a year and get trounced by the guy with the best game".

    Yeah, what a ridiculous state of affairs that is. At least in the rest of the tour victory goes to the guy with the nicest haircut, or the longest shorts, or something.

    Isn't it supposed to be the point of sporting competitions that the winner is "the guy with the best game"? What would you prefer?

    PS. This year I cleverly, albeit accidentally, found myself on holiday in Greece (where they've never heard of lawn tennis, or lawns for that matter) during the whole of Wimbledon apart from finals weekend. Brilliant! got to see some tennis, but spared all that "could this be a year when [insert hopeless Briton here] wins it" media frenzy before (s)he is ingnominiously dumped out in the quarter finals.

  37. Matt

    No Wimbledon shown in America....

    over there they show wimpleton......

  38. Anonymous Coward

    Super Slow-Motion Cameras

    Hawk-Eye is crap. It's degree of inaccuracy isn't much better than the human eye, so I don't see why it should supercede the line-judges

    I'd prefer to see a rack of Super Low-Motion Cameras with a Matrix style Bullet-Time recording format to get every possible view of an incident. Then at least you KNOW exactly what happened.

  39. Mister Cheese
    Paris Hilton

    Come on, Tim!

    Nuff said. Apart from the fact that dry mud can produce a bit of a chalk-like puff when you hit it with a tennis-ball at 200km/h.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    Some good points

    Firstly, the article makes some good points - albeit not as well as they could have been made.

    Video replays have a number of advantages over hawk-eye replays, the most noticeable of which being the ability to see chalk dust fly when the ball hits the line. That's been one of the key things for the line judges, players and spectators for years - has it become irrelevant now? Chalk dust flying or not flying is probably a lot more accurate than a 5mm hawk-eye accuracy.

    Wimbledon is an anomalous joke. Since there is only really one other major grass tournament, and that's seen by most as a warm up to Wimbledon, it compares with hard and clay courts considerably, where there are loads of professional tournaments on those surfaces. Also grass is such a different surface that the game that often wins is very different from clay or hard courts (serve and volley - and I know Nadal/Federer is different - but the point is valid). This means that a player can play very differently on grass compared to any other surface. As such it is definitely an anomaly. The joke comes in because so few tournaments are on grass, it is therefore much more of a lottery.

    Finally, the muppet who tried to claim the "World Series" of baseball was a genuine world series is having a laugh. Firstly, baseball isn't a worldwide sport like athletics or football (real football - not the American variety) - it's played a reasonable amount in central america, and a reasonable amount in a few asian countries, but other than that, worldwide playing and spectating is minimal. Next, there is a world cup of baseball which the US has won twice, and Cuba has won 25 times. Even Venezuela has won more times than the US. Each time it is played at most 16 teams have been involved. More teams are involved in the Cricket world cup each year. Baseball is a minority sport, and will remain so whilst ever the US is so protectionist about it. It isn't that dissimilar to basketball where the world plays by one set of rules, and the US by another.

  41. Liam

    Re World Series

    The name "World Series" is a marketing creation designed to get people to sit in a cold stadium on chilly October nights. The obvious names for it, "American" and "National" were already taken by the leagues. "Federal" might be an option, but you can see why the marketing and hype men went with "World".

    At the time (we're talking 1903 and earlier) baseball was only in America, so by the same logic that we have a Miss Universe contest, the winner really was the best baseball team in the world. Even today, the claim is still valid. The two Japanese leagues are not at the major league standard, and nothing else comes close.

    The logic doesn't carry over to football, where the Premiership is just another national championship on a par with La Liga or the Austrian League or Japan's top flight. Even the UEFA Champions League winners can only claim to be Champions of Europe, since that competition is on equal standing with the same competitions around the world.

    That is simply not the case in Baseball, which doesn't change the fact "World Series" is nothing more than a marketing name anyway.

  42. Kwac


    Baseball World Series? Even less international than conkers.

    England's got the "World Championship" every year.

    The men's game has been won by a Mexican, the women's by an Austrian & a French woman - possibly because English kids are shackled by the imported fear of legislation.

  43. Dave Jones
    Thumb Down

    Baseball does it best

    The umpire's word is law. Arguing gets you a red card.

    All the other sports that allow replays, radar, sonar, odar etc. suffer from ever more focus on fine detail that detracts from the game. Was he 1 cm out, or 1 cm in? Who cares? If it wasn't clear to the spectators that the guy scored, or went out of bounds, why does it matter? TV people like to over-analyze everything, but the sports admins should just let them yap and get on with providing a good spectacle.

    A bas la technologie!!

  44. Andrew Jones
    IT Angle

    >>why can't they show the footage that is used as the source data for hawkeye?

    Because the cameras are zoomed in and are only calculating the position of the ball, not providing TV quality footage.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hawk-Eye is invented by a Brit

    According to this:

    "Hawk-Eye is the brainchild of Paul Hawkins, a British computer scientist". The system has an AVERAGE accuracy of 3.6mm and is actually tuned to be even more accurate along the baseline.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Chalk - not enough

    Just to clarify, chalk dust flying up isn't enough - the speed at which they're hitting those balls it can be either ground vibration, or even wind that can cause this. Check out some of the replays you can see it

  47. Simon Oxlade

    Hawkeye adds to Tennis

    I thought the Tennis coverage was excellent this year - Hawkeye, as it has been accepted into the rules of the game, is an excellent tool and can make a direct influence on the game.

    The slo-mo TV replays were only for the TV viewers and couldn't actually change the game. It adds another element to the sport - does the player challenge that one, or let the game slide?

    Murray used up his challenges on calls that Hawkeye confirmed to be correct, only to lose two points later on through line calls that were (thanks to Hawkeye for the TV viewers) wrong, but he'd shot his bolt.

  48. Richard
    Thumb Down


    Not a bad piece... that is until the "bootnote". Sheer nonsense; Ashlee, please stick to tech as you clearly know absolutely nothing about the game of Lawn Tennis.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Tennis hasn't been the same...

    ... since the BBC banned the camera operators from doing the low-angle shots of the women's knickers.

    ... Mine's the dirty mac!

  50. pctechxp

    the ball is blurry because

    NTSC is crap.

  51. Daniel

    why can't they ...

    ... have, like, intelligent balls and lines with sensors in them that say, like "ouch!" or "it was iiiinnnn!' if the ball hits it?

    bags eye lots of wonger to make the proto ... who wants to buy shares?

This topic is closed for new posts.