This past August, I decided to resurrect a tradition that my father and I used to do every year when I was younger: go see professional tennis at the (now named) IGA Stadium in Montreal. Every year on the professional tennis circuit, both Montreal and Toronto host tournaments in Canada, with the cities alternating each year with regards gender; this year, it was the women who played in Montreal.
I was lucky enough that on the day I went, I got to see Canadian Leylah Fernandez play against the U.K.’s Harriet Dart. Although Dart ended up winning the match, it was Fernandez who only a month later would make it all the way to the U.S. Open finals with an incredible string of challenging victories. Both her and male counterpart Felix Auger Aliassime did Canada proud with their amazing play.
One interesting thing I realized on that day in early August day: not only were there no line judges on the court, but as well there was no net judge either. Although electronic technology has been used in tennis for years (to help with verifying questionable human line calls), this was my first time seeing service calls being made electronically as well. There was no one crouched at the end of the court with their fingers wrapped around the top of the net, ready to call “let” if the player’s serve happened to touch the top white seal/border of the net. Replacing the human hand is a rectangular sensor that is installed under the border, which gets triggered whenever a served ball touches the border.
Upon subsequent reading, I learned that in order to reduce staff due our current world situation, the 2020 U.S. Open tournament used electronic judging on most matches, excluding those held at their 2 big courts (Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium). At this year’s 2021 Australian Open, all matches used electronic judging for the first time in a Grand Slam event.
So yes, it seems that in order to reduce the amount of possible human interaction during a match, the use of electronic judging technology has increased and will likely never revert back to its human ways. That said, electronic technology ultimately began being used in tennis (as well as other sports such as cricket, badminton, and even snooker) in order to reduce and ideally eliminate something Quality practitioners know very well: HUMAN ERROR.
With the release of the 5th edition of the ISO 9001 standard (ISO 9001:2015), the principles of Risk Management were imbedded into the standard, an approach that the AS9100 standard had already done with its 2009 revision. Organizations had to (finally!) make risk management an integrated part of their management system. As well with the 2015 revision, the element of human error finally found a place in 8.5.1 Control of production and service provision, which states:
“The organization shall implement production and service provision under controlled conditions. Controlled conditions shall include, as applicable:
g) the implementation of actions to prevent human error”
So organizations are now in a situation where they are mandated (as applicable) to evaluate their production and service operations for ways to prevent humans from being, well, occasionally human. Mistakes occur, we all know this . . . even during tennis matches. You can easily go on YouTube and find plenty of video compilations of players disputing rulings that they saw one way, but the human line or net judge saw/felt another. So by slowly implementing electronic judging into the game over the years, the tennis world (aka the organization) has been attempting to reduce/eliminate the human error from the game . . . by eliminating humans ;-). That is one way to go (extreme!), but ultimately the standard’s minimum expectation is for companies to look at how to best mitigate the risk that a human fault may occur.
One judge that still remains on the tennis court during matches is the chair umpire, so there is still a human overlord during the proceedings. That said, it would not surprise me if in my lifetime that role also goes . . . electronic.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither the “C” word nor the “P” word were used during the writing of this article. Photo taken (and edited) by Michael Bournazian.
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Thank you, all the best and none of the worst.