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Federer shows a chink in his armor

Vic Braden

by Vic Braden
Contributing Tennis Writer

We were beginning to think that Roger Federer had no weaknesses, but his attack on the electronic line calling system, ?Hawk-Eye,? during the Australian Open was a total surprise to everyone. Roger was beating Jonas Bjorkman easily when Bjorkman successfully challenged a service call. Federer sarcastically said, "Yeah, right."

Later, in the post match media room, Federer expanded on his ?on-court? criticism. He said that using the technology in the Rod Laver Arena was ?nonsense? and putting too much pressure on the player. He also added, ?Now they (umpires) can hide even more behind these calls, that?s for sure. Of course we would like to rely a little bit on umpires as well. They tend now to just let us do the work, you know, the tough stuff. They let us get embarrassed, basically."

Roger experienced his first encounter with ?Hawk-Eye? at the 2006 US Open. He challenged seventeen calls in seven matches and was wrong ten times. Sitting in the media room in Melbourne, I was confused, and surprised, at the statements made by Roger.

Roger Federer
Roger Federer has won all 12 matches this season and continues to be ranked #1 in the world for the past 161 weeks.
1. On every decision, the linesperson has made a call. "Hawk-Eye" then comes into the picture to potentially embarrass the player, and the linesperson.

2. Has Roger forgotten how many times linespersons are embarrassed by players who disagree with the call? We?ve all seen players slamming their rackets to the ground, swearing at the linesperson, or chair umpire, while giving them the glare that kills. Is Roger saying that it?s okay for a player to embarrass linespeople, but players should be immune to any scrutiny on their own line calls? I?m still having difficulty with Roger?s statements.

3. I?ve reported many times on the eye study the USTA commissioned our Coto Research Center to investigate in the early 1980?s. The result was that no human could see the ball touch the hard surface as it was a three millisecond event, and the human eye doesn?t accurately record a three millisecond event. Both spectators, players and linespeople were wrong a significant number of times. And, if the ball flight landed in an area near the umpire?s chair, it required a rapid saccade of the umpire?s eyes and the umpire was inaccurate. In many cases, that would rule out an umpire?s ability to overrule a linesperson?s call. Further, in a cooperative effort with researcher, John Van Auken, the same results were duplicated.

4. Dr. Ariel and I used force plates to measure a player?s ability to see well while on the run. Some players who were running hard to retrieve a shot, and abruptly stopped, were often landing at three times body weight and his/her vision went from 20/20 to 20/200. In other words, the players are playing legally blind on certain shots.

5. In studies by Opthalmologist, Dr. Jacob Liberman, a large percentage of our population doesn?t see what they think they see. For example, there?s a large percentage of people who see things closer than they actually are using the dominant eyes. And the non-dominant eye sees things further away than they are. You can check out the ?Eyeport? by going to on the web.

Next up is the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells which will be using the Hawk-Eye. There are players who love it and players who hate it. But, one thing is certain; the Pacific Life tournament mangers rightfully trust the Hawk-Eye system over a weaker human system.

We all love Roger, but I?m afraid I have to say that it might be in his best interest to review the data.

Comments? Contact Vic Braden at vicbraden@vicbraden.com.

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