Don Moore

How Hawk-Eye Works

In Sports on July 3, 2010 at 2:57 AM

(No, not this Hawkeye)

Tomorrow is the women’s final at Wimbledon, the oldest, msot prestigious of all tennis tournaments. Serena Williams is playing in the final, and as a huge Serena stan, I feel it is my duty to have at least one tennis related post this weekend. Wimbledon is all about tradition–the white outfits, the grass courts, the conspicuous lack of advertising, the grass courts- but this post will focus on one of the recent innovations to take hold at Wimbledon: Hawk-Eye. But what is Hawk-Eye? And how does Hawk-Eye work?

What Is Hawk-Eye?

Hawk-Eye is instant replay for tennis. Let’s take this scenario:

Player 1 hits a scorching down the line shot; it seems to barely clip the baseline

A linesperson calls the shot out, rewarding the point to player two

Player 1 objects, challenging the call

Hawk-Eye is used to review the shot, showing that yes, the ball did just clip the baseline. Player 1 wins that point instead

Pretty nifty, huh? Yet professional tennis was reluctant to implement the costly technology. That all changed after a 2004 US Open quarterfinal involving none other than Mrs. Serena Williams:

Numerous atrocious calls in the quarters of a grand slam tournament did the trick: by 2006 Hawk-Eye was making it appearance at the major US tournaments, and by 2007 they were at all the major non clay tournaments world wide (clay tennis courts leave distinct marks where the ball lands; for this reason, Hawk-Eye is not considered necessary).

OK… So How Does It Work?

In a nutshell: Four high speed video cameras are placed at different positions around the court. Using triangulation and a preset digital map of the court surface, the cameras can accurately chart a ball’s location relative to the court. While not 100% accurate–it has a margin of error of about .14 inches– it is a lot more accurate than the human eye.

What does this mean for players and fans?

In theory, no more blatantly wrong calls. Nothing puts a damper on sporting events like bad officiating (I’m looking at you, FIFA) and Hawk-Eye gives players a chance to right any wrongs against them during a match. Plus, we get to see the cool Hawk-Eye screen whenever calls are reviewed. Win-win, I say.


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