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Madrid Open 2021 Becomes First Clay Event to Implement Hawk-Eye Technology

By Jen Campbell @TennisLife_Mag

This year’s Mutua Madrid Open stands out from the previous tournaments in more ways than one. For starters, the event is being staged with a reduced crowd and is following numerous other protocols in the new normal amid the COVID pandemic. However, the most talked-about change is the introduction of Hawk-Eye technology for line calling as opposed to inspection by the chair umpire.

The procedures on clay, thus far, had been for the chair umpire to step down from his or her perch and step across to inspect in the event of a disputed call.

Electronic Line-Calling in Madrid Open marks departure from tradition on clay

Felix Auger-Alliassime of Canada congratulates opponent, Rafael Nadal of Spain, during day five of the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open.

Felix Auger-Alliassime of Canada congratulates opponent, Rafael Nadal of Spain, during day five of the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open. | Photos Source: Alex Pantling/Getty Images

The introduction of Electronic Line-Calling (ELC) at the Madrid Open has marked a departure from tradition on dirt and might even be a template for future events. The service is being provided by Foxtenn, the only tech firm which is certified to operate the system on clay.

The system was formally approved and cleared for implementation by the ATP, WTA, ITF as well as the four Grand Slams after being trialed at Rio de Janeiro and Federation Cup matches in the Netherlands and Belarus last year.

The presence of line judges, who are positioned near the baseline, has been called into question, especially in the pandemic times.

“Not had a single mistake,” says Foxtenn top official

Felix Mantilla, Foxtenn’s director of global sales and statistics specialist, said the system was put through several tests and came out with flying colors. In a recent interview, Mantilla said:

We have not had a single mistake in the pots and that makes the players play more relaxed.

On the debate on whether line judges should be persisted with in the days of social distancing, the senior Foxtenn official said:

Our review can be used interchangeably, with or without referees.

(Quotes have been translated via Google)

The new-age technology for line calls has already been rolled out in as many as 30 tournaments worldwide, including Acapulco, Marseille, Antwerp, New York, Newport and Tokyo.

Explaining how the system works, Javier Simon, founder and CEO of the company, said:

The bounce you see is the real one because we can see the ball from five different angles. There are many footprints, previous bounces, and others that touch lightly on the white line, which can lead to error on land.

It’s been so far so good with the system at the Madrid Open as it has not drawn any complaints yet.

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