Australian Open chairman Craig Tiley wants to make Melbourne Park one of the safest places in the world in January due to the strict Covid protocols in place, so strict that even Novak Djokovic could pay the price. These protocols include that all ball boys are fully vaccinated against the virus, as is the case for anyone who participates or competes in the event who is at least 12 years and two months old, unless special and unlikely exemptions are made.
Players should also be responsible for their own towels, as was the case in the 2021 edition. New details emerge from Tennis Australia's CovidSafe plan: once again, the line judges will pay the price. The 2021 edition, postponed to February, represented the first Grand Slam to replace line judges on every court with Hawk-Eye Live technology.
No line judges at the Australian Open 2022?
Electronic calling was first pioneered at the Next Gen ATP Finals in 2017 as the next step in Hawk-Eye technology and proved beneficial in a period of a Covid-19 pandemic because it clearly limits the number of people in the court.
Players are also less likely to vigorously discuss a call once human error is removed. Technology is now common in the world tennis tour, even if Roland Garros did not use it and Wimbledon did it only in certain cases. Many people now think that electronic calling is the future of the sport, even once the pandemic is finally over, but there is still the rejection of some traditionalists.
Granted that the pandemic issue could really end one day, the fate of the line judges, at least in ATP tournaments of a certain level, now seems to be sealed. Beyond the romanticism, on the pitch would a player really prefer human error to the incontrovertible perfection of the hawkeye? The answer will most likely be no.
We recall that the participation of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the Astralian Open 2022 is still in doubt. Rafa is grappling with COVID-19 infection, while it is still unclear whether Nole will be in Australia due to the vaccine. There will be no Roger Federer and Serena Williams, still out due to physical problems.