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By Chris Oddo | Friday, April 3, 2015

Andy Roddick, Power Shares Series

Is electronic line-calling the next big thing in tennis, or a passing fad? In this exclusive Q & A, Andy Roddick gives his two cents.

Photo Soure: Power Shares Series

During a decorated playing career that saw him win the US Open and attain the ATP’s No. 1 ranking, American Andy Roddick had his share of verbal jousts with tennis officials. Now retired from the tour and playing on the Power Shares Series, Roddick is taking part in a system that many believe could be the future of officiating in tennis. In a bold move the Power Shares Series, which is currently in the midst of its annual 12-city tour, has elected to do away with linespeople and let the players and Hawk-Eye instant replay technology make the calls. Is this just a passing fad or could it be the next big innovation in tennis?

Also See: Roddick, McEnroe Talk Electronic Line-Calling on Fox Business

We caught up with Roddick after his first event with the new system to get his take and find out if the system really is a viable alternative to what is in place on the ATP and WTA Tours at the moment.

Tennis Now: Curious to know what was your take on electronic line-calling experience and how did it go calling your own lines?

Andy Roddick: Well I do have to say that James [Blake] challenged me on calls four or five times that night and he was wrong every time. I challenged him one time and he got overruled so I’m a big fan of the system right now.

Tennis Now: In the other matches that were going on were there more challenges than you expected there to be? Were you surprised at all about how the system operated?

Andy Roddick: I wasn’t in Salt Lake City last week. I played in L.A., which was the next night. Supposedly in Salt Lake there weren’t that many challenges and in L.A. there were a bunch. I’m guessing it probably had something to do with people not trusting my line calls (laughs).

You know what? It was a pretty fun dynamic because you make calls and you’re pretty confident—you think you’re right—but then there’s the drama. If you’re wrong there’s pie in your face instantly. I think it’s a really good idea, I think it’s fun for the fans also.

Tennis Now: Andre Agassi, before he played, used the adjective “weird” in reference to the new system. Jim Courier worried that it might be perceived as “Hokey.” Were there any other adjectives being thrown around the locker room, and how did you and your peers really feel about the incorporation of this technology?

Andy Roddick: I thought it was fun. I was lucky enough that when I played the bulk of my career we had review, so the only difference for me wasn’t really using a review system, it was just that you’re calling your own lines, which is something you do in practice all the time anyway, so I can see where it’d be a little weird for guys that didn’t have that throughout their careers.

I thought it was different, and we’re sitting here talking about it, which makes it a good idea.

Tennis Now: If you talk about really implementing this system I think a lot of people would say that adding the stress of calling lines to a professional athlete is a little bit ludicrous, and that it might diminish the quality of tennis. Any thoughts on that?

Andy Roddick: Well, we’re having two different conversations. We’re having one about whether it’s a good idea for the Power Shares Series and another about whether or not we should do it on the main tours. I think those are different deals. In the Power Shares Series you have four guys as opposed to 128 guys in a draw, so I don’t know that I would expect to see it on the main tour.

Tennis Now: No, not anytime soon, but it has sparked some discussion. Does it make you curious and make you imagine that maybe the system could work if it was sort of like a Cyclops experiment where Hawk-Eye actually made the calls and didn’t put the pressure on the players to make the calls?

Andy Roddick: Yeah, maybe. The only thing is to get the review it takes a second, so putting it into play would be an issue, I think if you are going off of cyclops. If you start playing the what-if game, the conversation becomes a lot longer, but I don’t see it changing anytime soon on the main tour.

Tennis Now: Overall, in terms of how it’s being implemented on the Power Shares Series, do you think the fans are excited about it and are having a good time with it?

Andy Roddick: I’ve only done it one time so far but it was cool. I like it. When Jim [Courier] had texted me and said this is what we’re thinking of doing, I said ‘Go for it I think it’s a great idea. People will talk about it and enjoy it. When guys get overruled it will be funny, they’ll get heckled a little bit.’ Frankly I think it increases the fan experience a little bit, so, what we think about it with regard to the Power Shares Series should be secondary to what’s good for the fans and what makes a good show.

Tennis Now: Now that you’ve played with it just once, would you be able to say which system gets more calls right in the end? Which system is better for the integrity of the game?

Andy Roddick: I don’t know. One-set sample size is a bit small. I always say that the best way to come up with statistics you like is to not ask a lot of people and stick with the answers you get (laughs). I thought it was pretty accurate. I don’t know that there were any missed calls, and if there was there is always the option to challenge.

We see a level of play where we’re accustomed to the speed of shot, and I’m pretty confident in our ability to call them correctly.

Tennis Now: You were around, as you mentioned, for the beginning of Hawk-Eye in 2005. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what the feeling in the locker room was about it then and how it has evolved over the decade after it was implemented.

Andy Roddick: I think most people were for it. I can’t speak for an entire locker room, as that’s not something I want to get in the habit of doing, but I feel like most people were for it, it was kind of a new novelty, and now players that are coming along now, it’s just what it is. It’s not a new idea, it’s just kind of an option that they’ve always had.

Calling your own lines is one thing, but frankly I think it takes away a little bit, on the main tour it takes away some of the arguments you used to have—with Mac and some of the other guys—so you lose a little bit of that entertainment value but overall I think it’s been a good idea for tennis and something that was fun to talk about for a couple years.

Tennis Now: This is more of a tour-related question but along the same lines. On the Power Shares Series you guys have these unlimited challenges. I don’t know if you saw at Indian Wells where the Aussie Kokkinakis, he lost out on a match point where Monaco missed and the ball was called in. Neither guy had a challenge remaining and the umpire decided to not overrule. They were stuck. Do you think unlimited challenges would be a good thing, or maybe something on match point?

Andy Roddick: No. No. The only reason you were in that situation is because you challenged and you were wrong. It’s self-inflicted. With unlimited challenges players would be doing it every point just because. If anything I’m happy with taking away challenges. You know you can have one challenge and if you get it wrong you don’t get another one.

Again, he didn’t have that option because he was wrong in challenging other balls. It’s like managing a situation as a coach in a game. That’s like saying ‘Oh the poor guy didn’t have any timeouts because he used them all at the end of the game.’ You would never say that. It’s the same exact situation.

Tennis Now: Another question along those lines. With regard to the quality of officiating, because we’re talking now, hypothetically, about getting rid of linespeople. I’m wondering your take, what do you think of the quality of the officiating of linespeople in tennis compared to the quality of officiating say of the NFL referee or a Major League Baseball umpire. Do you think we need to do better in tennis?

Andy Roddick: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know how to compare different sports. I’ve never actually been, you know in the batter’s box and experience that other realm. You know being an umpire, to their credit, is one of the most thankless jobs. If you do a great job, nobody talks about you. They only start talking about you if you have a bad day. I don’t know how to compare tennis to other sports

The 2015 PowerShares Series is a competitive tennis circuit featuring legendary tennis icons and world-renowned champions Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, John McEnroe, Jim Courier, Michael Chang, James Blake, and Mark Philippoussis. The 12-city tour of one-night tournaments is played in major arenas during March and April 2015. Find out more here.


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