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Cummings & Goings XI by Jim Cummings

July 23, 2007 02:44 AM

Even a player as good as Federer can't beat the machine. In his extraordinary Wimbledon final with Nadal, he requested a Hawk-Eye challenge and when his challenge was not upheld, asked the umpire to turn Hawk-Eye off because he had no doubt in his mind the ball was out. Request denied. The human eye, no matter how good, has its limitations. Hawk-Eye has proved its worth.
 
You had to be impressed at how good the line umpire's calls were throughout the tournament. It did my heart good to actually hear the crowd applaud one call that was reviewed. What about the calls that were overturned? I saw no review that was not a few hairs breadth away from being right. The officials at Wimbledon did a remarkably good job within all the restraints of human limitations. Will the day ever come when line umpires are a thing of the past? I doubt it. For one thing, the system is too costly to be used in the hundreds of matches that are played in a big tournament. And systems do go down. What then? But Hawk-Eye is here to stay and the way it is being used adds a nice dimension to the entertainment package.
 
The Federer incident reminded me of a time I was in the chair for Monsieur  McEnroe. He was receiving serve and on a first serve that had been called a fault by the service line umpire, made a big show of overruling the call. The procedure at that time, and probably yet today, was that you went with a player's call against himself. And that's what I did, even though the line umpire's call was correct! The serve hit smack on the sideline about an inch or so behind the service baseline. Looking across the line, Mac saw a blend of lines where the ball hit. The service umpire looking down the line saw the separation and I saw it also from my vantage point in the chair. Too bad there was no Hawk-Eye at the time to back us up. Rest assured I gave that service umpire a surreptitious look to let him know he had nailed the call. Players like Federer and McEnroe have exceptional eyesight, but less anyone forget, they are still human. Another thing, the officials on those matches are no slouches either.
 
Watching Wimbledon, I sometimes found it hard to follow the ball when it blended in with the worn grass. Watching the French Open was even harder because the ball picks up the clay granules and quickly takes on the color of the court. A friend once asked if using a dark-colored ball had ever been considered. Intriguing thought, no?
 
For the life of me, I can't figure out why officials have to make the same measurements over and over every time they put in singles sticks. The rule has been the same ever since I can remember; the sticks are placed 36 inches from the outside edge of the singles sideline. Why can't the tennis industry stipulate that a permanent mark be made for the sticks on all new court construction? Why can't permanent marks be sprayed on existing courts where singles sticks are frequently used? Just think of all the time and effort that could be saved, if, for instance, this were done at Flushing Meadows in time for the Open? Save an umpire's aching back!
 
Speaking of aches, Serena's aching wrist all too painfully reminded me of the time I had to have my wrist reconstructed in 1990. I was still on the shelf the following year when I went to Saddlebrook as captain of Mid-Atlantic's team in the National Sectionals. John Powless, former U of W  tennis  coach, was there demonstrating Wilson racquets and I told John about my wrist problem. Without hesitation, he gave me a Wilson 3.8 Hammer to try. The results were gratifying. Would you believe that with all the hundreds of new racquets that have come on the market since that time, I am still using a Wilson 3.8 Hammer today? I'm down to two, now, and they have been out of production for many years, but the way I hit the ball these days compared to back then, that should be no problem. The point of this story is that if you are having a physical problem hitting the ball, there might be a racquet out there that could help you.
 
Along the same line, my flat foot was killing me one day and I was noticeably limping while roving a county high school championship tournament. One of the coaches, noticing my plight, recommended I try a pair of New Balance 800s. Holabird Sports was on my way home and the manager is a friend of mine. I stopped there and asked Sol if he could recommend a shoe that would help my foot. He went in the back room and came out with a pair of New Balance 800s. Without exaggeration, when I put them on, it was like putting on a new foot. If the shoe fits...

By:  Jim Cummings 7/21/2007

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
   zjimc@msn.com

 

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