Next-Gen Finals will review … EVERYTHING!

And you thought the towel rack was innovative?

The Next-Gen Finals are going full-out on the video review this year.

The ATP announced on Friday that the exhibition event for 21-and-under players will use expanded video review for this year’s second annual event in Milan.

We’re not talking about line calls. We’re talking about not-ups, racket touches and reaching over the net to hit a ball. All those little borderline nuances that are in the rule book and tough for the chair umpire to call are covered.

You just hope that they happen, so we can see the technology at work.

“Controversy with these types of decisions are rare but when they do occur they can be particularly unsettling for players. We do not expect a lot of challenges, but should any instances arise, this technology will ensure the correct decision is reached,” was the statement from Gayle Bradshaw, ATP executive vice-president of rules and competition.

The video review operator off the court will search the footage from all the cameras to find the best angles. It’s somewhat like the video review officials in the National Hockey League searching for decisive footage when a goal is reviewed.

They’ll send it to the chair umpire’s tablet (not his fancy watch?) to review. the umpire will make a determination on whatever the infraction was. The fans in the arena and watching at home also will be able to see that footage.

Hawkeye watches coming to Milan

No more INVASIONS!

Did you know? If a player’s racket, or clothing “touches the other side of the court” while the ball is in play, it’s called an “invasion”.

That notably occurs when a player’s racket crosses the plane of the net, trying to handle a ball with backspin, unable to stop on the dead run or trying to put away a very slow ball on the volley.

(Djokovic conceded later that he thought his racket might have crossed over the net. He also conveyed that to Murray at the time. Djokovic also said he was unsure if the rules prohibited it (!). But he added he would have conceded the point had that been made clear to him. It was definitely not on Djokovic to do that; the umpire, having to make the decision in real time, blew the call).

The technology also will reportedly be able to call “foul shots”.

Those include “deliberate” double hits, or carrying the ball rather than striking it. You have to think the chair umpire will remain in charge of deciding whether it was deliberate or inadvertent.

No more touches

If the ball hits a permanent fixture before it bounces, they’ll know. If the racket is no longer in the player’s hand when it makes contact with the ball, they can see it. And if the ball skims the racquet, or a player’s clothing – or even their hair, they’ll be busted.

Finally, if any part of the player’s body or equipment touches the net, net posts or singles sticks while the ball is in play, they’ll see it.

Given they don’t expect too many, there’s no limit on the number of challenges of this type that a player can make.

You just hope the players don’t figure out how to use it as a tactic to catch their breath, or slow up the play. Because there’s no mention of any penalty against the inquiring player, if he’s wrong.

On the plus side, fans won’t get on their non-favorite player to “‘fess up” or give away a point on the “honor system” – even though it’s not their responsibility.

Other possibilities

One capability of the technology would be to be able to determine whether the point should be given, or replayed on a line call overrule.

You see this happen – although not that often – because it’s a judgment call by the umpire as to whether the player was impacted on the timing of the call, and might have put the ball over the net otherwise.

Sometimes it’s pretty contentious, too. And often it puts pressure on the player who benefits from an umpire’s judgment to call something against themselves of their own volition (which you’re *supposed* to do in unofficiated matches, but which is not in the least your responsibility when there are officials).

(That won’t happen at the Next-Gen Finals, because Hawk-Eye live makes all the calls, and they’re not subject to appeal).

Other changes will be to lop yet another minute off the player warmup. It will be down to … four minutes. (No idea why tennis is so focused on this issue – it’s far and away not a major time vampire).

Final field determined

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As of Thursday, the eight players who have qualified for the Next-Gen finals were determined.

Well, actually seven players, as the eighth is an Italian wild card that will be determined by a playoff. Gianluigi Quinzi won it last year. He aged out of the competition this year.

Spain’s Jaume Munar was the last to qualify.

So the field will be as follows, as the No. 1 Next Gen contender, Alexander Zverev, will take a pass for the second straight year as he qualified for the “big boys” final in London.

*Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
*Denis Shapovalov (CAN)
*Alex de Minaur (AUS)
*Frances Tiafoe (USA)
*Taylor Fritz (USA)
*Andrey Rublev (RUS)
*Jaume Munar (ESP)

Shapovalov and Rublev are the only holdovers from a year ago. Shapovalov remains the youngest; he doesn’t turn 20 until April.

Here are the top young Italian players, most of whom will play off the week before the event.

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Hawk-eye challenged by FOXTENN in Metz

The Fox is now chasing the Hawk in the battle for electronic line-calling supremacy.

Since 2005, the Hawk-Eye electronic line calling system has been the standard in tennis. For more than a decade, it was the only system officially approved by the alphabet soup of tennis federations.

Until last December, when FOXTENN made the cut

The new system was tested at a Spanish Futures tournament it sponsored last February called the Open FOXTENN FCT (on hard court). As well, it was featured at the clay-court tournament in Barcelona this spring.

In Metz, France last week at the Moselle Open, the Fox battled the Hawk once again (good line, not ours).

According to Yahoo France, other than a few first-time glitches (such as some replays being slow to come up on the big screen), it seemed to work well.

https://youtu.be/osVpSb5BRJk
FOXTENN CEO Simón says his system is more accurate than Hawk-eye (France3 Télévision)

It is scheduled to be used once against at the ATP Tour event in Antwerp, Belgium in a few weeks.

More accurate, and cheaper?

FOXTENN boasts its margin of error is better than that of Hawk-Eye. It uses slow-motion video replay, not graphically-recreated approximations of the ball’s trajectory.

A report on France 3 television says that 40 cameras are used, all synchronized with lasers. They’re capable of creating 2,500 images per second and producing four or five angles on each ball.

FOXTENN cameras are definitely more obtrusive than those of Hawk-eye. (France 3 Télévision)

The report also says the system was tested out on more than one million tennis balls, with the margin of error “reduced almost to zero.” It also is said to be cheaper than Hawk-eye to install.

“It allows us to see exactly when the ball impacts on the court, and not an estimate of the trajectory. It calculates exactly – in real time – the distance from the line,” FOXTENN CEO Javier Simón told France 3.

As an aside, the language used on the patent applications is hilariously obtuse.

In contrast, Hawk-Eye uses just 10 cameras. One thing’s for sure, the FOXTENN cameras are a lot bulkier. You have to look pretty hard, and know where to look, to find the Hawk-eye equipment on a court.

And the graphics are a little bulkier, too. There’s a whole lot going on there.

But any competition is a good thing. At the moment, the cost of installing Hawk-Eye on multiple courts is prohibitive for all but the richest tournaments.