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ATP Event Eliminates Lines People

ATP courts aren’t shrinking, but lines people will soon be diminishing.

The inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan will make history this fall as the first ATP event to be staged without a lines crew.

Watch: Darcis, Goffin Lift Belgium Into Davis Cup Final

For the first time, all calls will be made by Hawk-Eye live electronic line calling on all lines on court during the tournament.

A chair umpire will be the only match official on court to preside over the match. Foot faults will be called by a review official who will be monitoring via cameras placed on the base and center lines.

The line-calling system will make an instant automated “out” call when a ball lands wide.

Each call will be final so the challenge system, currently in use at ATP events and three of the four Grand Slams, will not be in use. However, all close calls will be accompanied with the visual display of the Hawk-Eye “out” call on video screens around the stadium.

That leads to the question: Is this the end of the line for lines people?

Given Hawk-Eye line technology are we nearing a future when lines people will go the way of the white ball and racquet press?

“This could be a landmark moment for officiating in our sport,” Gayle David Bradshaw, executive vice president of the ATP’s Rules and Competition department said in a statement. “Our athletes work incredibly hard and they deserve the very best and most accurate officiating we can offer. The technology is now in a place where we feel comfortable trialling this new system in a real tournament environment.

“The Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan is the perfect place to do this, and we look forward to monitoring the results and assessing the merits of this new system.”

Hall of Famer John McEnroe, who often led the ATP in arguments with officials, has long advocated eliminating lines people and empowering players to call their own lines with the challenge system in place.

Currently, the Champions senior circuit features players, including McEnroe, calling their own lines.

McEnroe believes requiring players to call their own lines, as juniors do in many tournaments, would add stress to the pros while creating compelling television for viewers.

"Now, if I was a top player, I wouldn't want the responsibility of calling the lines," McEnroe said in a prior interview. "There's enough stress. But from the standpoint where I'm at now, where I'm not the one doing it, from purely an entertainment value, it would make the fans much more involved.

"And it would make it much more personal for the players."


Photo credit: Getty Images