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proper noun

a computer system used in tennis, cricket and other sports to follow the path of a ball and show exactly where it lands or bounces

'Roddick, who had 22 aces, was tied at 5-5 in the tiebreaker when he asked for Hawk-Eye to challenge a call. The decision was overturned, giving the American a set point and taking away a match point for his 117th-ranked opponent.'

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 15th June 2007

as well as the controversial introduction of equal prize money for men and women, Wimbledon has embraced 21st-century technology and allowed a newcomer to the courts

The world-famous Wimbledon tennis championships are in full swing, rain permitting, and although the event is steeped in tradition, there have been one or two changes this year. As well as the controversial introduction of equal prize money for men and women, Wimbledon has embraced 21st-century technology and allowed a newcomer to the courts, one which will never get angry or lose concentration: play is now scrutinized by the watchful gazes of Hawk-Eye, the electronic line-calling system.

The Hawk-Eye system monitors play and, when a player questions a call (i.e. a decision by the umpire or line judge about whether the ball was in or out), a slow-motion image of the ball in flight is shown on a large screen. A black spot indicates where the ball landed, and if the spot touches the white line, the ball is in. If it doesn't, the ball is out. Hawk-Eye takes the skid and compression of the ball into account, and can be accurate within 2-3mm. As well as being used to resolve controversial incidents, its multi-camera technology can provide a new range of match statistics and the potential for 'interactive' viewing.

In 2005, Hawk-Eye was tested by the International Tennis Federation in New York City and passed for professional use. The US Open tennis championship in 2006 became the first 'grand-slam' event to use the system during play, and in January 2007 it was used at the Australian Open. It has now made its debut at Wimbledon, where players are officially allowed three 'challenges' (queries about line calls) per set. If Hawk-Eye agrees with the player, the player 'keeps' that challenge. If Hawk-Eye proves the umpire's judgment to be correct, the challenge is lost.

Hawk-Eye might be able to keep the players on the court in the midst of controversial line calls, but it can easily be overruled by the unpredictable English weather. Watch this space however, as plans are already underway to construct a retractable transparent roof for the centre court, scheduled for completion in 2009. As well an end to McEnroe-esque protests such as 'You cannot be serious!', infuriating announcements like 'Play suspended' could also become a thing of the past.

Background – Hawk-Eye

Hawk-Eye was invented in 2001 by Dr. Paul Hawkins whilst working for the UK-based company Roke Manor Research Limited. The technology was subsequently spun off into a separate company called Hawk-Eye Innovations Ltd. Hawk-Eye's first official use at a sporting event was in a Test Match between England and Pakistan at the Lord's cricket ground on 21st April 2001.

With its Wimbledon debut this year, Hawk-Eye replaces the Cyclops automated system, which monitored service lines since 1980 and let out a characteristic 'beep!' when faults occurred. Cyclops was so named after a race of giants in Greek mythology who each had a single round eye in the middle of the forehead.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 2nd July 2007.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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