Tennis is a sport where it can be hard to predict the outcome of any given competition. Sure, there are a few players at the top of the sport that are expected to win or at least make it to the later rounds of every major tournament. But anyone can have a bad day. The one-on-one nature of the sport means that a younger or less-skilled opponent may only need to take advantage of a few mistakes to beat one of the top players when it counts.
Naomi Osaka famously beat Serena Williams in this year’s U.S. Open. Osaka is no doubt an amazing young player but to beat Serena Williams in a major final is never really expected. And more than that, the way Williams conducted herself was surprising as well. Her outburst about a referee’s call made headlines. The usual cool-headed Williams freaked out on the court at the referee before going on to lose the final. It was certainly a memorable final match at this year’s U.S. Open.
In the fourth round, John Millman upset Rodger Federer in this year’s U.S. Open. Ranked number 38, this upset was entirely unexpected. Millman had no business beating Federer, the all-time leader in men’s singles finals. According to Federer, the humid conditions he was playing under made it difficult for him to breathe during the game. But the younger Millman seemed to be okay playing under the same conditions.
It is possible that at 37 years old, Federer just doesn’t feel like he did in his younger years. As the defending champion, Federer enters the Australian Open with confidence. But it is yet to be determined whether the dominant Federer or the aging Federer shows up.
No More Line Callers
Instead of having line-callers, the ATP Nextgen Finals opted to install electronic line monitoring systems. The general attitude of the players is that this is a good thing. The electronic monitoring system is more accurate than the human eye so having these systems cuts down on bad calls and takes out the opportunity to argue with the decisions of the line-callers.
There are a few problems with switching to electronic monitoring systems though. The first problem is that the systems are expensive. At the time being, it isn’t possible to equip every court with these systems. So the question remains, whether to equip some courts and not others, or not to equip any at all. The problem with setting up some courts with electronic monitoring systems and not others is that it is an advantage to be playing on a court with more accurate calls. The obvious choice would be to install these systems at center court in every complex. But this would only benefit the best players as they are the ones who get to play on center court most consistently.
The other main issue with the electronic monitoring systems is that they take the human aspect out of the game. But most players do not seem concerned with this. They are more worried about calls being made correctly. However, the more automated sports get, the more they diverge from the reason sports exist: to bring people together in competition.
It has certainly been a good year of tennis with lots to cheer for. As we look towards the New Year, there are changes being made to the sport and power changes happening at the highest levels. As fans of tennis, we live for the surprises and can’t wait for another year to begin.