Tracking tennis balls with Hawk-Eye

It settles disputes and commands the complete respects of players, officials and crowds alike. But how does Hawk-Eye function and what do the people behind the scenes do?

Video source: Australian Open TV / YouTube.

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LUKE AGGAS: So my name is Luke Aggas, I'm the Director of Operations for Hawk-Eye Innovations.

My main job is to look after the ten cameras to make sure they're tracking accurately and reliably. We've got a big team here of about 14 people across three courts this year, here up in the review booth we watch every single ball tracked, and track that via our cameras that are positioned all the way around the back of the stadium. You have five cameras at each end, and they're triangulated to give you the 3D location of that particular ball. Any ball that's closed we'ree already analysing before the players challenge or the chair umpire has announced the challenge. When the umpire has actually announced the ball will be contended, then we look at all the information, and within about 5 to 10 seconds, just as the crowd look up to the video boards, the challenge will be displayed.

So we can see in the video board the ball was called out, and Hawkeye shows the ball long. Even when players are incorrect and the original call stands. It means the player relaxes more, they're contented, they're not going to get agitated, and hopefully raise the bar on the level of tennis that everyone's going to see.

The system is approved by the ITF, which set out strict guidelines and test us. You need to be less than 5 millimetres wrong, on average, and the figure that gets generated is 3.6 millimetres. So we're below the criteria specified by the ITF.

So the system is developed specifically for cricket, originally. It was by our Managing Director, or by our former Managing Director, Dr Paul Hawkins. He's an extremely intelligent guy who studied Artificial Intelligence at Durham University in the UK. A keen cricketer, so he kind of matched his intelligence with his sporting knowledge and saw the potential. As time went on, maybe 2 or 3 years after the cricket system was developed, around 2002-2003, we saw the huge potential for it within tennis, and it became officially used from 2006 onwards. So this is our sixth Australian open.

Maths point—the mathematics of tennis

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