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Last Updated: Friday, 22 June 2007, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Tantrums and technology
By Nick Crowther

Hawk-Eye managing director Paul Hawkins
Paul Hawkins hopes not to make the headlines at Wimbledon

Changing the persona of a tennis player - it's not something Paul Hawkins probably considered when he first came up with the idea for Hawk-Eye.

But, as his invention prepares to be used in an official capacity at Wimbledon for the first time, could we be witnessing another example of technology bringing about social change?

Tennis has certainly moved on since 1981, when John McEnroe had his infamous tantrums in SW19 with cries of "You cannot be serious!"

But to some it is exactly those personalities that make sport special and it has revived the question: Is technology taking the fun out of the sport?

"I think most people who air those views these days are people that haven't watched Hawk-Eye in action," insists Hawkins.

606: DEBATE
DL

"Because what you tend to see is players still expressing their personalities, but you actually just see a nicer side.

"You often get a joke at the end of a challenge and that's the side of the players that, I think, fans want to see."

A Hawk-Eye technician helps prepare Court One at Wimbledon for calibration
Hawk-Eye have been preparing in SW19 for over two weeks

Hawk-Eye has been used to challenge calls at tournaments, including the US and Australian Open, for 15 months.

At its grass-court debut at Queen's, players were allowed an extra challenge per set (three instead of two).

But Hawkins, who was told of the change by the International Tennis Federation a few days beforehand, is confident the system won't be abused.

"I don't think the fact it's grass and they've got an extra challenge has really changed things much at all.

"Even when we've done Davis Cup matches, when it's unlimited, the players kind of govern themselves - they don't want to challenge when they know the call was correct."

What Hawkins has noticed is the tactical use of the challenges.

"Generally you find there's more towards the end of a set because it matters more then and you don't need to worry about saving some for later in the set - use them now or don't have them," he added.

Fans pay their money because they're the best players in the world, not the best arguers in the world

Paul Hawkins

And there are factors to take into account on grass courts rather than hard courts.

"The part of the ball which touches the ground on a grass court is a fair bit wider than on other courts because the ball sinks into the grass before there's any force back up against it," Hawkins explained.

"Grass is eight millimetres long so you end up with wider marks and the system takes that into account. But, unlike clay and hard courts, there isn't really a mark that players can go and have a look at."

In the end, it is quite simple for Hawkins.

"Our role is to stop line-calling ever being a story, so the papers are writing about the quality of the play rather than about the officiating," he said.

"For most people who watch tennis, they want to see tennis, they don't want to see players arguing with umpires and line judges.

"The fans pay their money because they're the best players in the world, not the best arguers in the world."

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