Tennis with chips not cricket

Jon Swift

There is no holding back the tide of technology which has changed the lives of millions across this troubled planet – but the electronic upsurge has produced its own yoke, in that no area of human endeavour is sacred.

The rapid rise of the social networks has turned even the most ill-informed into instant experts – but on the upside, streamlined virtually every facet of life. Sport has been a fertile field with the introduction of super-slomo ca-meras zeroing in on the action and electronic timing devices able to calculate finishes down to the ninth decimal place.

But the latest foray into tennis, where microchipped racquets relay downloadable information to coaches and players, shows science has taken over from common sense.

The game has come a long way from the days when Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg wove their wizardry with wooden frame racquets, though the debate still rages over whether the use of synthetic materials has been for the better or worse. And it cannot be denied that tennis has taken to the use of the electronic Hawkeye replay system for disputed line calls with alacrity after the initial doubts.

But making a ruling on a line call is a measurable entity within the context of the match.

Programming equipment to relay the subtle differences in a player’s game through each shot he or she plays is surely importing an unfair advantage, especially as only the rich elite playing group will have the readies to cough up for what will surely be an expensive system.

Tennis has clearly not thought this issue through, for giving only the top players what constitutes a very definite edge over the rank and file is akin to making everyone who lines up against Usain Bolt run in rugby boots.

The International Tennis Federation has given its rubber stamp to the technology, leading some credence to the contention that the body that oversees the world game is out of touch with the realities on court.

It surely cannot benefit the game to promote a system aimed at sustaining a robotic elite. For the racquets in question are not going to turn a wealthy weekender into a winner. It needs the strong base of skills development to have any meaningful function. Why then does the game need it?

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