By Barry Millns in Stuttgart
Since Hawk-Eye’s introduction to tennis a few years ago it has become an integral part of most show court matches broadcast from the biggest tournaments around the world.
The electronic review system was first used at the 2006 Davis Cup final in Moscow and extended to the Fed Cup final a year later. From this weekend, the ITF has extended Hawk-Eye’s use to all rounds of the Davis Cup and Fed Cup World Group, plus the Fed Cup World Group play-offs.
But what about the people who set up and run the system at all those ties? A glamorous life you might think getting the chance to travel the world and watch a sport they love. True, but judging by my chat with Jonty, who is managing the system here in Stuttgart, they certainly work hard!
Surrounded by monitors and miles of cabling in the Hawk-Eye booth overlooking the court in the Porsche Arena, he explained that the system which uses ten cameras placed precisely around it takes around three days to set up, calibrate and test to the highest standard of accuracy required. With that comes a fair amount of manual labour, hauling the equipment into position and wiring everything up.
As the players also want to practice on the court before their ties, the Hawk-Eye team don’t have too much ‘court time’ themselves to set everything up. Then, once the matches start, the powers of concentration required are considerable bearing in mind that they can be required to run the system at the Grand Slams for up to 16 hours a day! At least with Fed Cup and Davis Cup there are only three matches maximum per day to deal with rather than half a dozen.
But after every event comes the de-rig and then what can be a pretty arduous trip to the next one – in this case for Jonty and his colleagues a 15-hour road trip to Serbia through heaven knows how much snow for next week’s Davis Cup tie against Sweden. Good luck with that, guys!
Watch Barry's video with Jonty on the Fed Cup Facebook page
Where in the world is Fred
By Fred Varcoe in Hyogo (?)
We’ve all heard of Where’s Waldo. Well, you can also play that game with this intrepid reporter from this weekend’s Fed Cup tie between Japan and Slovenia.
I was originally told the Fed Cup match between Japan and Slovenia would be in Kobe. That seemed like a reasonable dateline to put on a story. People have heard of Kobe, even if it is only because Kobe Bryant was indirectly named after the city (he was actually named after the area’s famous beef).
But, actually, I wasn’t in Kobe at all. I was in Hyogo Prefecture. In actuality, sorting out “obscure” Japanese regions isn’t easy. But… Kobe isn’t going to cut it. Partly, it has to be said, because the Bourbon Beans Dome – the venue of the Japan v Slovenia Fed Cup tie – is not really near Kobe.
To be precise, it’s 30 km away in a place called Miki (although both are in Hyogo Prefecture). To be even more precise, it’s in Miki General Disaster Prevention Park (although that didn’t help the Slovenian team’s general disaster there).
Lost? Well, you might think it would have been easier if they’d staged the match in Tokyo at Ariake. But does that mean the dateline should be Ariake? Or should it be Tokyo? Or should it be Koto-ku? The Japanese word “ku” is often translated as “city,” but the correct word should be “ward.” And is it Ariake Colosseum, Ariake Stadium or, as it’s written on Japanese maps, “Ariake Tennis Forest?”
Well I’m not going to decide. And if you say “Just put Kobe,” then you’ll be the one telling the ITF to put London instead of Wimbledon for a certain tennis venue.
Buying a bargain coat
By Sandra Harwitt in Worcester
Jet-lagged from the trip home from the Australian Open, I made sure to be very methodical about taking everything I would need to the Fed Cup tie between the U.S. and Belarus: suitcase with clothes, work bag with computer, and cold weather gear… hat, gloves and scarf. Oops! I forgot my winter coat in the car, which isn’t too helpful when you’re going to Worcester in the winter.
I didn’t worry, though, because I had read that Worcester was the second largest city in New England – that encompasses the states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Surely, buying a new winter coat that I didn’t really need as I have about six, wouldn’t be a problem.
I wish. There’s not much going on in downtown Worcester -- and there was certainly no clothing stores. I bundled up as best as I could with two fleeces to go to the draw ceremony. And that night I got a ride from a friend to a mall in the next town over.
Success and a bargain. A brand new white coat that started out at $299, but with the sale price, 60% of that sale price, an additional 5% off because I had a charge card from the store of purchase, and I only paid $96.
Making the scene
By Richard Van Poortvliet in Moscow
Glitz and glamour is an everyday part of life in Moscow. Designer clothes and top of the range cars can be seen all round the city as the locals are more than happy to throw their rubles in an effort to look the part. The players’ dinner was no exception with plenty of guests flocking to get a glimpse of Maria Sharapova, with a fair few perhaps more interested in what she was wearing than the actual event itself.
There were plenty of stars on show at the stadium. Basketball fans got a glimpse of Andrey Kirilenko, who is now plying his trade in Russia with CSKA Moscow, while Boris Yeltsin’s widow Naina also made an appearance. The first Russian president following the break-up of the Soviet Union was, of course, a huge fan of the sport and often made appearances at top tennis events around the capital.
There was also an appearance form Dmitry Tursunov. The world No. 49 was taking time to relax in Moscow following the Australian Open, and where the Russian Fed Cup team was – so was Tursunov. He’s been an ever present person during the course of the tie, cheering on the Russian girls. However, one noticeable absentee from the home side’s bench on the second half of Sunday was Maria Sharapova. The 24 year-old had to pull out of her tie due to illness.
By Martin Sonoga in Bratislava
No matter how tired I was given the line of my duties at the Fed Cup tie between Slovak Republic and France I agreed to get together with Francois - one of the many fans of Les Bleus who came to Bratislava to support the French team. Francois spoke fluent English, which was not really surprising as he majored in linguistics.
We met in front of his hostel located in a really convenient location in Bratislava’s city center, right next to a Tesco store. I took him for a walk around the old town as until then he had only seen the train station, hostel, Tesco and the tennis.
My friend read some information about Bratislava in advance and he seemed to be interested especially in the funny statues around town, so we went statue hunting. But, alas, Francois started to complain that Bratislava was too cold and he had enough sightseeing so we decided on sharing a drink.
A Briton comes home to Charleroi
By Richard Fleming in Charleroi
This trip to cover the Fed Cup tie between Belgium and Serbia marks my fourth trip to the country in less than a year. Three of the visits have been to Charleroi, the venue for this contest with Serbia.
Last year I covered the Davis Cup tie where Belgium lost to Spain, the 2011 champions, and the Fed Cup semifinal versus the eventual 2011 champions, Czech Republic.
So, you could say I was familiar with the venue. It’s safe to suggest, also, that my face has become something of a fixture in these parts. This was highlighted by tournament staff welcoming me back like an old friend, which has been lovely.
“Richard. Great to see you again,” said Paul, the top-notch transport coordinator, who is a dentist by profession. The short journey from hotel to venue has given me the chance to catch up on the lives of the drivers since our paths last crossed.
Incredibly for me, I recalled that one was ‘between jobs’ the previous time we spoke. He’d told me of this while driving through Antwerp’s deserted streets early one September morning. An IT wizard, he’s training in a more specialist field and the future looks rosy.
Another reminded me of the journey we took to the official dinner in Antwerp. “It was a bumpy road,” he laughed. “We have new cars this time.” (Not sure if the two comments were linked.)
So, should the call come for yet another return to Belgium, at least I’ll be among people I know… and who know me.
A town of firsts
By Sandra Harwitt in Worcester
There doesn’t seem to be much going on in Worcester, Mass., these days, especially considering it’s a college town with nine universities. But in its day, Worcester apparently was a star when it came to firsts. Here’s just a list of a few of the many firsts that come from this Massachusetts town.
1) The first pressurized space suits were developed in Worcester.
2) The first envelope folding machine was invented here in 1853.
3) The first Nobel Prize winner from the United States, Professor Albert A. Michelson of Clark University, won in 1902 for his measurement of light.
4) The first radio station in the U.S. to play the Beatles was WORC DJ Dick “The Derby” Smith, who received a gold record of “She Loves You” from the band as way of thanks.
5) The first rickshaw came from Worcester, made for a missionary going to South America. Once introduced to Asia, it became the gold standard for travel.
6) And the yellow smiley face was created by Worcester’s Harvey Ball of “The American Group Insurance Company.”