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The ultimate battle (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday February 7, 2007 10:34AM; Updated: Wednesday February 7, 2007 11:07AM
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Serena Williams opted to challenge a line call during her Australian Open semifinal match against Nicole Vaidisova.
Serena Williams opted to challenge a line call during her Australian Open semifinal match against Nicole Vaidisova.
Kristian Dowling/Getty Images
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Didn't Marat Safin make that shoes/wet court comment to a referee, not Andy Roddick? His later comment, about the referee smoking a cigar and escorting two chicks, and the righteous facial expression that followed, were priceless.
-- Megan, Indianapolis

Major unforced error by yours truly. Safin made these to (and about) the chair, not Roddick. And, yes, I am embarrassed. Check this link.

Going by Federer's "challenges" during the Aussie Open, don't you agree that if he keeps this up another three years or so, he could end up being the Greatest Linesman/Chair Umpire of all Time?
-- Chris Hawkins Los Altos, Calif.

No kidding. For a guy who's weirdly disagreeable with Hawk-eye (of everything wrong with tennis, this is your beef?), Federer sure benefits from it. Not only was he frequently successful challenging calls, but also as a player who only competes on the "show courts" (and plays seven rounds each Slam!) he has more access to challenges than anyone else.

I got a lot of Hawk-eye questions these past few weeks, and here's my take: I love it. It's fun, it's effective, it doesn't stop the rhythm of the match. In Australia, during every challenge the fans went, "WhoooooooooAAAAAAa" as the ball traveled on the big screen. They then immediately looked down to gauge the players' reactions.

When administrators talk about "interacting" and "involving the fans" and "humanizing the players," this is a great example. Is it unfair that it's only used on show courts? Well, yes, but that will change as the technology gets cheaper. (If Hawk-eye prices drop to the level of flat-screen TVs, every high school team will have the system soon.)

What about Mary Carillo's idée fixe that it's gimmicky, that the "game show" element ruins the credibility? That is, as long as the technology exists, use it and don't make it incumbent on the players to decide when to right a wrong. I see her point but this doesn't bother me. First, the "game show" is a guilty pleasure -- I like seeing which players are judicious and which aren't. I worry that every line call and foot-fault will be "reviewed."

Also, tennis' system is in keeping with other sports. Does the technology exist to review every football play for infractions? Yes. But there is a limit on challenges. Could we replay every basketball play to determine if the foul call was accurate? Yes. But we only use replay selectively (determining whether a shot beat the buzzer or whether a player's foot was on the three-point line) because we like the human element.

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