LONDON (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal may appear an unlikely traditionalist given the way he has ripped up the tennis blueprint in the past 15 years but some aspects of the sport, he believes, should not change.
Fans are not the only thing missing from this year’s ATP Finals which is being held in London for the 12th and last time.
Changes forced by the COVID-19 pandemic also include the absence of line judges -- with Hawkeye line-calling technology automatically deciding whether a ball is in or out.
Nadal is not one to argue the toss with officials, but even if he was, there would be nobody to vent his anger at.
With no room for human error, players have also been denied the chance for Hawkeye challenges -- a popular feature for tennis since it was introduced at the 2006 U.S. Open.
World number one Novak Djokovic said at the French Open that line judges should be scrapped altogether, but Nadal, while accepting the unusual circumstances in London this week, would prefer them to remain stationed on the court.
“I don’t want to create controversy, but I think the traditional court with line judges looks much nicer,” the 34-year-old Spaniard said after his 7-6(7) 7-6(4) loss to Austria’s Dominic Thiem on Tuesday.
“Novak said line judges were not needed. All opinions are respected. There are different visions of the sport, but for me I like it less without line judges.
“It’s welcome here so we can adapt to the circumstances but if you ask me towards the future I prefer line judges. It’s true the sport has not changed many things in the last 50 years, compared with the majority of sports, but I don’t think this is a way to improve the spectacle of our sport.”
Nadal said the ‘human element’ on the court was important and said that if line judges are removed, the next step could be to remove chair umpires as well.
“The technology is there, it could be just the two of us in the court if we want,” he said. “But I think the human side gives some more value somehow to the sport.”
Nadal’s defeat means he must beat Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday to keep alive his hopes of winning the ATP Finals title for the first time in his glittering career.
Not that his defeat by Thiem in a scintillating clash had shaken his confidence too much.
“I think my chances are better to have a very good result now than they were five days ago because the level of tennis, even if I lost today, for me is much higher,” he said.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis
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