In her latest diary from SW19, Reem Abulleil discusses the latest officiating controversies at Wimbledon, and whether more use of video replay is becoming necessary in tennis.
Tennis has been one of the leaders in sport when it comes to utilising technology in officiating, with Hawk-Eye being used to help with line-calling for more than a decade now.
But several controversial calls were made this week – particularly during the fourth round match between Dominika Cibulkova and Hsieh Su-Wei, and the third round clash between Novak Djokovic and Kyle Edmund – that have highlighted deficiencies in the current officiating system.
With VAR (video assistant referee) making its debut this World Cup, many have pointed out that further use of video replay is necessary in tennis.
During the Edmund-Djokovic match, an umpire awarded a point to the Brit even though he had touched the net, the ball had bounced twice, and his pick-up sailed out.
On Monday, umpire Zhang Juan made a mistake during the Cibulkova-Hsieh encounter. Late in the first set, with Hsieh serving at 4-5, a Cibulkova ball was called long but Hsieh hit the ball back anyway and it landed comfortable inside the court.
Cibulkova challenged the call and Hawk-Eye showed it was in. Zhang then decided to award the point to Cibulkova even though Hsieh had hit the ball and was not at fault in any way. The right call would have been to replay the point. Even the crowd were chanting “replay the point”.
Hsieh asked for the referee to come to Court 18 and play was delayed for nearly eight minutes as both players argued and eventually Zhang’s decision was reversed and the point was replayed.
If video replay was available, it would have taken seconds for Zhang to realise how wrong she was.
Of course Cibulkova knew what happened and could have suggested to Zhang they replay the point, but instead the Slovak complained about the officiating during her press conference, and said: “It was ridiculous what happened there. It never happened to me in my career that this would happen. Just a player is complaining. Sometimes I’m also complaining because I think it was a wrong call.
“But it never happened to me that the umpire changed the decision. It was really ridiculous for me. I think it was really bad decision from the supervisor and from the umpire.”
Quite the unexpected take from Cibulkova, who surely knows replaying the point was the right call.
She then continued: “The umpire told me she doesn’t remember what happened after the ball. Is it my fault you don’t remember if she hit the net or if she put it on my side?
“The right decision was, of course, to keep the decision. I mean, how many times it’s happening that a chair umpire is changing the decision?
I think there should be, like, maybe one rule for this because you never know what’s going to happen. It’s only about the chair umpire, what he thinks on his mind. Sometimes they can be wrong or right. Even if they are wrong or right, they are not going to change. I’m just talking it was not right to change the decision that she made.”
At a time when tennis is very much open to change and introducing new things – the shot clock will be used to count down from 25 seconds between points at the US Open – it’s time to consider some form of video replay to help umpires make the right decisions in such situations.