When the PowerShares Tennis Series rolls into Dallas next week for the Champions Showdown, tennis fans will be treated to something old — no offense to Jim Courier and company — and something new.
While the PowerShares Series features legendary tennis icons, including Courier, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis, the circuit has also turned into a proving ground for the use of technology that could soon change the game at the Tour level.
The “Hawk-Eye” line-calling system has been in use for the better part of a decade on the pro tour, but the PowerShares Series has taken the replay technology to the next level. The series has done away with linespeople, leaving all line calls to the players, whose calls are subject to Hawk-Eye challenges by their opponent.
Through four stops of the series’ 12-tournament season, Courier, a series co-founder, said the players have been happy with the system.
“It’s been a pretty good eye-opener for me,” Courier said. “The really neat and interesting thing about it to me is the challenges are direct challenges to your opponent as opposed to challenging a linesperson. If I play John [McEnroe] in Dallas and I issue a challenge, I am challenging his eyes and his line call. I think it gives it a little more of an edge.
“All the calls will be correct because the way we are doing it — as opposed to the way the ATP and WTA Tours do it now with linespeople and limited challenges — we have unlimited challenges, so if [the call is] close, it’s likely going to be challenged.”
However, Courier said it’s not always easy for a player to make his own calls.
“It places a little bit of a premium on you recognizing close calls as a player on your side of the net and making the right call without hurting yourself,” he said. “Example: Let’s say I’m playing Andy Roddick in the final in Dallas and it’s break point and he hits a first serve. I get the return back in play, but the serve may have been out. Do I stop play and call the ball out and risk him challenging it, and it caught a little sliver of the line and I forfeit the point? Or do I believe in my eyes and call it out and hope for a second serve that I can do something with?
“Those are the kind of judgment calls we made as juniors, and we make in practice, but we haven’t had to make them in tournament play, so it puts a premium on our quick judgment, and I like it. It puts a new element in the game for me as a player. I’m really enjoying it.”
Courier said the number of challenges has varied from match to match. In some matches there have been only two or three challenges, while other matches have seen 14 or 15.
Courier said he wouldn’t be surprised if the ATP and WTA adopted the format or something like it in the future.
“The USTA did send one of its top officials to Chicago last week to see it in action,” Courier said. “I’ll be having a conversation with them toward the end of the tour when I have more information on how it’s worked in real-time. We’ll let them know our thoughts and what wrinkles and challenges we may see for them on a go-forward basis. But I would be surprised if we’re not at the very least a transition property toward where I think we’ll eventually be in tennis, which is with electronic line-calling that will eliminate the human error.
“I think, eventually, that’s where we’ll be. We’re certainly there with Hawk-Eye where the players trust that the calls are correct and there’s no argument with those calls, by and large. I don’t know if the ATP and WTA will do it the way we’re doing it, where the players make the calls or they would just jump straight to a situation where the ball is in or out and you hear an automatic beep, but I think this is eventually where we’ll go and let players decide matches as opposed to linesmen.”
Rusty Hall, 817-390-7816
7 p.m., April 18, Moody Coliseum, Dallas
Featuring: Jim Courier, John McEnroe, Andy Roddick and Mark Philippoussis.
Tickets: $35-$250 ($13.75 children 12-under) at Ticketmaster. VIP upgrades at www.powersharesseries.com.