IRS Drama

Published on Thursday, September 22, 2016

IRS Drama

Following on from Mike Wright’s article regarding teamwork at the All England, I felt it might be interesting/useful to offer another incident from the same tournament.

On the Wednesday I had the fortune to umpire a match on Court 1, on which IRS (or Hawkeye) was available. Earlier that morning I had completed a shift as the TO responsible so had seen the process from the “off-court” perspective.

The match concerned was a Mens Singles, and progressed without any IRS challenges until almost the end of the 3rd game. At this point one player wanted me to overrule a call (which I considered was clearly correct) and when I refused he challenged the call. I genuinely believe that both players had forgotten that IRS was available prior to this, as there were several close (but again in my opinion correct) line calls. I made the required announcement, invited both players to towel down while the decision was made, and watched the screen (while also watching players, reassuring the line judge that had been challenged, and “preparing” my announcement). The heartbeat was resounding around the Barclaycard Arena and then the decision came. Both players looked at the screen and the graphic clearly showed that the shuttle had landed outside the singles sideline and therefore the line judge call was correct. However, the caption then appeared: “IN”. It took me a second to process this, but I quickly realised that the display on the big screen contradicted itself! The reaction of the spectators and the players confirmed that something was wrong, as “giggling” erupted around the Arena, and the players both looked to me with looks of bewilderment.

Clearly this scenario had not been covered in any of the briefings at the tournament, and I immediately raised my right arm calling for the Referee, whilst reassuring the players that I had the situation in hand. At the same time as looking at the Referee’s desk, I was also trying to “communicate” to my Service Judge what had happened, as I was getting very puzzled looks from him, and also was aware that the Line Judges who could see the screen were trying to do the same to their colleagues who were aware of a problem, but didn’t know what had happened.

Fortunately the Assistant Referee who was on the desk at the time had also realised that there was a problem, and after acknowledging my raised arm, resorted to the backup method of holding up a board with the decision (which upheld the original line call). I acknowledged this, made the necessary announcement (withholding “PLAY”), reassured both players who had not necessarily seen the board being held, checked that my Service Judge and the Line Judges were ready, and continued the match by calling “Play”. The match continued without incident, although there were no further IRS challenges! I knew that I needed to process what had just happened, but clearly this could not be done until the end of the match.

As I left the court at the end of the match I was aware walking past the spectators that the incident was still cause of much discussion. After exiting the Arena, all the Line Judges were querying what had happened, especially the one who had made the original call. There was also a discussion between myself and my Service Judge Simon Dart, as he was unaware of exactly what had happened as his back was toward the screen. I knew that I needed time to discuss with colleagues and understand what had happened, so was on my way to ask to be removed from rotation for 10 minutes or so to do this, when I was met by the Deputy Referee. He was very complimentary about the manner in which I handled the situation, and confirmed that I did exactly the right thing in calling for the Referee. Fortunately I had time to process and understand what had happened, before going on court for my next duty. I subsequently found out that the umpires on IRS duty and the operator were horrified as soon as it appeared on the screen, as they had made the correct decisions!

The incident caused me to examine the way in which I communicate with the team of TOs both on and off the court, and highlighted to me that there are times when it is not possible to make those on court fully aware of a situation, but that you can only reassure as best you can. It also highlights the importance of dealing with an incident at the time, and then “filing” this away until you come off court. Had I tried to understand what had gone on while the match was still in progress I guarantee that I would have made several errors in the remainder of the match. This is something that we try to instil in new umpires, but is often easier said than done.

However, the incident did show the importance of teamwork with all TO’s at the event, not just those on your court. At least half the TO’s on the court knew that something had happened, but were not sure what. I was fortunate that the Referee team were aware of the situation and responded quickly, and that the Line Judges and my Service Judge were professional and maintained their level of concentration throughout the remainder of the match – not that I expected anything less than this! It is not easy to discretely communicate to the team on court what has happened, but important to reassure them that it was being dealt with, and that I have full confidence in them.

It also showed the importance of checking that the graphic and the caption match, rather than just relying on one or the other!

I was sure that there was probably a photograph of my face when I realised there was a contradiction on the screen as photographers have a habit of being in the “right” place at the right time. I have been assured that I looked perfectly calm and composed! Again this is something that we highlight to new umpires about maintaining a calm composure and not appearing flustered, but is often easier said than done.

 I was allowed on that court in subsequent days and had several IRS challenges to deal with (although none as eventful as this one!). I think that the final word has to go to one of my fellow umpires who stated “If anyone was going to break Hawkeye, it would have to be you Amanda!”

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Author: Amanda Balaam

Categories: Tournaments, All England


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