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WTA Tennis




Cummings & Goings III by Jim Cummings

January 30, 2006 08:45 PM

So far, only one comment received about the article on numeric scoring in my last column, but it was a good one. Here it is:

"Thanks for sending me the article from the Wisconsin District column that you wrote about 1-2-3-4 scoring. Now, my grandchildren, ages 9, 6 & 3, may understand how to score the game - Peter."

Peter Finck is a past president of the Maryland Tennis Association, an experienced tournament director, tennis official and all-around good guy.
He worked countless hours while here in Maryland to promote and further our game. Where is he now? Naperville, Illinois. Mid-Atlantic's loss is Mid-Western's gain.

Now, why the above? I am looking to show that Numeric Scoring will make or is making our game more people friendly. I would especially like to hear from teaching pros, Phy Ed instructors, Park and Rec personnel etc. that they are using Numeric Scoring and their take on it. Is it making a difference? I understand it is too early to tell, heck (I learned that word recently from someone in a high place), I still haven't received my 2006 Friend At Court in the mail and here it is almost February. I've been wrong before, but on this I think I am right. Numeric Scoring will make a difference.

Move over, Zorba

Is there a better known, more popular Greek at this moment than Marcos Baghdatis? And is there a player more fun to watch? You won't find his game in any book, maybe because it defies description, but is it ever fun to watch. His faith in his game has carried him all the way to the finals of the Australian Open as of this writing. The odds-on favorite to meet him there is Roger Federer. Talk about a must see match if that happens.

I got to watch the last part of his semi-final match with David Nalbandian and, in it, Patrick McEnroe came through with a good observation. The talk was about who would be the better bet to win in a 5th set, a player with fresher legs or a player without fear of losing. Patrick, without hesitation, said fresh legs came in second to no fear. We all know what happened. Nalbandian played well, but Baghdatis played fearlessly.

Near the end of that match, there were two calls by the chair umpire that could have turned the match around. Both went against Baghdatis One was a center service line call that SportCam showed was definitely out. The chair overruled the center service line umpire and said it was an ace. Now, it is true that (except for Cyclops, the laser device that calls service base lines) electronic devices such as SportCam are not official; not yet, anyway. However, when it shows a ball missing a line and if the line umpire looking straight down the line has called it out, bet on the line umpire and the machine.

The criteria for an overrule is still the same as it ever was. A chair umpire must be absolutely certain a clear mistake was made. In an early edition of the Code, Nick Powel wrote: "When you are looking across a line, don't call a ball out unless you can clearly see part of the court between where the ball hit and the line. This means if you are a half a court or so away and a ball lands within two inches of a line it is almost impossible for you to call it with accuracy." That is as true today as when Nick wrote it.

The other call was on a match point (no less) for Baghdatis. Here, the chair umpire was left hung out to dry by the baseline umpire. The announcer pointed out that there was no call by that umpire. Uff Da! The chair called it out and SportCam showed the ball clipping the back edge of the base line.

Help may be on the way. In the 2006 Friend At Court, Appendix V.,
Role of Officials, there is a brand new segment titled Electronic Review Procedures. Want to bet we won't see something along that line being used in the US Open this year? But if you are looking for perfection, don't get your hopes up too high.

In 2004 at the US Open, there was another call in the match between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati that did not receive the notoriety that the erroneous chair umpire overrule did. It involved a second serve that the Cyclops laser service baseline machine called a fault. MacCam showed it catching the back of the line. Neither the service line umpire nor the chair are allowed to overrule Cyclops. The use of Cyclops is endorsed by the players. Mac Cam and other systems are still be evaluated. But still, what we had there was one machine saying the other was wrong. You choose.

Do you get the feeling from all this that we have a perfect game played by imperfect players which is officiated by imperfect people and machines? Would you want it otherwise?

By:  Jim Cummings 01/29/2006

Jim Cummings Bio:
   Born in Marinette, WI
   Boyhood friend of the Cook family
   Played varsity tennis for UW-Madison in the 50s
   Officiated at over 25 US Opens as a chair and line umpire
   Served on USTA's Rules Committee when Jack Stahr and Nick Powel were Chairs
   Active senior player and Referee
   Presently helps edit the Friend At Court