It kills me to admit this, but…I’m not perfect.
Tennis offers me so many opportunities to be humbled by my fallibility. There are all those unforced errors. All the times I can’t remember the score.
And of course, there’s the line calls.
On the face of it, calling a ball in or out really shouldn’t be too hard. You look at the line. You see the ball bounce. A kindergartner ought to be able to get this right.
But even professional line judges err, which is why we now have HawkEye and the challenge system. I’ve seen chair umpires overrule the line judge–something they’re not supposed to do unless it’s a clear error–and then get proven wrong themselves when a player challenges the call.
What we think we saw is not always what actually happened. I don’t know why this should be so, but it is. I make mistakes. You make mistakes. My opponents also make mistakes, but in almost every instance, I believe they’re doing the best they can.
Fortunately for me, I play doubles and have a second set of eyes watching the lines. My usual partner will promptly overrule my “out” call if she saw the ball in. And she doesn’t mind when I do the same. We just say something like, “No, it was in. It was close, but it was in. Nice shot.”
It never occurred to me that anyone could take offense at being corrected by her partner, but apparently I’m wrong here, too. The Code offers this advice on how to properly correct a partner’s line call:
“14. Partners’ disagreement on calls. If one partner calls the ball out and the other partner sees the ball good, the ball is good. It is more important to give opponents the benefit of the doubt than to avoid possibly hurting a partner’s feelings. The tactful way to achieve the desired result is to tell a partner quietly of the mistake and then let the partner concede the point.”
I’ve played a lot of doubles, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen line call disagreements handled this way. It seems very strange–both overly formal and time-consuming. And how infantilizing to the partner who made the “wrong” call! After having been pulled aside and corrected, the poor partner is sent back out, tail between her legs, and forced to say…what, exactly? “On second thought, I believe the ball may have been in”? Ridiculous.
To my mind, this approach makes too much fuss out of ordinary human fallibility. Just correct the call and move on.
What do you think of the Code’s advice? How do you handle this situation in your own matches?