The U.S. Open Tennis Championships may soon deploy centralized instant replay.
The U.S. Tennis Association, which owns and operates the two-week tournament, is seeking to create a single, command-type center where all replay reviews are conducted. Currently replay occurs on an on-court video board where it is available.
With the change, the animated replay of a disputed shot, a fan favorite since it was introduced in New York in 2006, would still be shown courtside — but the technicians would no longer be courtside, and the actual call would be made from the command center.
Tennis does not typically have the same level of disputes over calls as do leagues like the NFL and Major League Baseball, where controversy can engulf some replay decisions. However, unlike those other sports, in tennis, replay is available only on a handful of courts at an event, because of cost. That creates the potential for competitive disadvantages between players who have access to replay and those who do not.
“We look to the day when we would have electronic line calling on every court,” said Gordon Smith, USTA executive director. Currently, seven of the 17 competition courts for the U.S. Open have replay.
Hawkeye, the British company that provides the technology, has three to four employees staff each replay court, and when a player challenges a call, those employees go to work. All told, it means the USTA is paying for Hawkeye to deploy around two dozen employees each tournament.
The USTA wants to greatly reduce that figure and bring all calls into one place.
The U.S. Open is in the midst of a $500 million renovation that will be complete by 2018. Part of that transformation will enable courts to be quickly wired for TV, digital and replay.
Danny Zausner, managing director of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center, home of the Open, said it is too soon to say when centralized instant replay could occur, though clearly the hope is to have it done by the end of the renovation.
No other tennis event has centralized replay.