Djokovic advocates elimination of line judges

hannahwilks in News 03 Oct 2020
Novak Djokovic in action at the French Open (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

Novak Djokovic has said that he sees ‘absolutely no reason’ for line judges on the court.

The world no. 1 was defaulted from the US Open in the fourth round after striking a ball in anger, which hit a linesperson in the throat.

Now Djokovic has suggested that there is no need for line judges at all with electronic line-calling technology available.

Asked about the issue in Paris, where he is playing at the French Open, Djokovic said:

‘With all my respect for the tradition and culture we have in this sport, when it comes to people present on the court during a match, including line umpires, I really don’t see a reason why every single tournament in this world, in this technological advanced era, would not have what we had during Cincinnati/New York tournament.’

Due to the global situation, electronic line-calling was used during the Western & Southern Open – usually played in Cincinnati but relocated to New York this year – and the US Open to reduce the number of personnel needed on site and on the court.

Djokovc playfully helps dry the court after a brief rain interruption (ChrysleneCaillaud/Panoramic)

There were still line umpires on the two main courts, however, due to sponsorship agreements with Ralph Lauren, and it was one of these people that Djokovic hit accidentally when swiping at a ball out of play.

Electronic line-calling is not traditionally used on clay, with the umpire relying on reading the marks on the court to determine whether a line judge’s call was correct or not.

This has led to a number of players complaining about the absence of electronic line-calling.

Djokovic said:

‘The technology is so advanced right now, there is absolutely no reason why you should keep line umpires on the court. That’s my opinion.

‘Of course I understand technology is expensive, so it’s an economical issue and a question mark. But I feel like we are all moving towards that, and sooner or later there is no reason to keep line umpire.

‘Yes, ball kids, of course … but line umpires, I don’t see why anymore, to be honest. Maybe you can tell me if there is any significant reason why we should keep other than tradition that we had and have in this sport.’

Djokovic added, in a wry, smiling allusion to the incident at the US Open:

‘Then I would also probably then have less chances to do what I did in New York.’

The world no. 1 was speaking after defeating Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia in the third round of the French Open. Djokovic has lost only 15 games in the first three rounds at Roland Garros, and with his victory over Galan on Saturday, he surpassed Roger Federer’s total of 75 French Open match wins. Djokovic’s total of 76 is now second only to 12-time champion Nadal’s.

Djokovic, who has yet to lose a completed match in 2020 and is looking to recapture the French Open title he originally won in 2016 when he completed the career Grand Slam, will face fifteenth seed Karen Khachanov in the fourth round. He could face a rematch with Pablo Carreno Busta, his opponent during the now-infamous match in New York, in the quarterfinals.