Why do French Open referees wear cameras on their heads?

Last Friday evening in Paris, anyone who watched Carlos Alcaraz and Sebastian Korda's late-night match on television – and who had also seen the Zendaya tennis film called Challengers – had a dizzying flashback.

Suddenly, a camera appeared from the side of the court, just above net level, swinging back and forth as the players jostled for control at the net. Barely keeping up with their speed of movement and thought, the ball swerved back and forth, following the ball across the clay and along the white lines, coming to a dizzying stop as Korda, the American No. 27 seed, blocked a vicious attack from No. 27 stopped. 3 seed Alcaraz dead over the net.

It didn't have the brutal aesthetic of Challengers director Luca Guadagnino's work, where the camera merged with the ball, but it was a fresh take on a sport whose TV coverage does little service to the vicious spin and phenomenal speed with which the best players are involved. that little fluffy yellow ball.

Innovation. Pleasure. A little bit of self-awareness. Everything that so many obsessive and casual fans of the sport cry about.

And everything that this technology – a small head-mounted camera worn by referees on the show court of the French Open, Philippe-Chatrier – may not have been intended to do.


The world of inventions is full of products and gadgets that are meant for one purpose and have found their niche in another.

Bubble wrap had to be a three-dimensional wallpaper. Viagra was a new blood pressure drug. The slinky was a surefire way to secure naval instruments in rough seas.

Referee-main-camera, welcome to the ranks of unintended consequences.

Getting that close-up rotating view was a big part of the thinking when the leaders of the French tennis federation, the FFT, started toying with the idea of ​​a camera on the chair umpire more than a year ago. There were visions of never-before-seen images of forehands hurtling across the net at 80 miles per hour, so fast it seemed like they were dragging the camera along with them.

“Let's be honest, they have the best seat in the stadium,” said Pascal Maria, the French Open assistant referee. No one can buy that seat, but the idea was that they could let fans experience that view.

From a television perspective, that usually didn't go so well. Watching a match up close on a high-speed dial can be quite a nauseating experience for television producers and fans alike. Instead, the purpose of the technology was shifted to serving a pedestrian, but at Roland Garros it was about the higher purpose: showing everyone the markers that referees look at when deciding whether a ball is in or out.

Even that hasn't worked great. When referees climb down from their seats to inspect the ball markings to decide whether their colleagues on the line have botched the job, the shot is so fleeting as to be effectively useless, partly because the people carrying the cameras are so good – usually – by pointing out that they are looking at it for less than a second.

“Good for playback, slowed down, (but) hard to keep alive,” said Bob Whyley, senior vice president of production and executive producer at Tennis Channel. “The referee's head, looking at the goal, is too fast.”

Andy Murray asked on X if there is a worse technology in sports. Victoria Azarenka wondered why it was available, but more mundane things like phone call reviews are not.

Amelie Mauresmo, the tournament director, said that after just a few days, officials scrapped the idea of ​​going to the main camera for live-action footage.

“It's quite difficult,” she said, but if there is good footage, such as a conversation with a player or a ball inspection, it would reduce the repetition.


The French Open is introducing the cameras on its own, while the other Grand Slams have no plans to introduce them for the time being. This is largely due to the tournament brought in referee head cameras to monitor line calls, but instead it created a player perspective that will be reflected in tennis lore.

In particular, the referee's opinion of athletes worth tens of millions of dollars (and more) whining at them like children begging at a parent who won't let them eat dessert or watch television.

Without Ump-Head, there is no picture of the last French men's hope Corentin Moutet during his match against world number 2 Jannik Sinner on Wednesday evening, pleading for justice with Nico Helwerth, an experienced tennis official from Germany. He was angry that a linesman had called him for a foot error on his favorite shot, the underarm serve.

He was wrong and didn't get justice and the audience got to see what it really feels like to be yelled at by a sweaty, hulking mess who is confused. Depending on the level of profanity and the decisions of the broadcast producers, they will also be told exactly what the referee and player are talking about.


Corentin Moutet pleads his case (Eurosport)
MoutetCam 2024 06 04 at 23.24.56


The referee explains his reasoning (Eurosport)

Louise Engzell, a Swedish referee, said she feels like the camera is a kind of security blanket, both from players who go too far and from commentators who inadvertently misrepresent the conversations they have with players.

“I'd rather they have information about what actually happened in a situation: why the chair umpire made this decision, and whether we're 100 percent right or whether it's a gray area,” Engzell said in an interview about the cameras during one of the many rain delays over the weekend.

At least they know and can discuss the reality of what happened. It can only be a good thing.”


Point-of-view reporting has been a success in other sports, inviting spectators to better understand the speed, effort and difficulty of what they are watching, which can sometimes be mitigated by the wide-angle view of a television camera.

During a match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United last summer, Villa footballer Youri Tielemans wore a camera on his chest, demonstrating the speed of thinking that footballers at the highest level must demonstrate – even in a match where nothing is at stake. .

This usually works by making it a standalone view – usually outside of a live broadcast, like Tielemans' video – or by relying on a stationary camera, attached to a fixed device. In tennis, the court-level camera does a much better job of showing the incredible shape and intensity of the player's ball, but it removes the context of angles provided by a wider shot.

It also lacks the extreme shift of a POV camera, which makes a huge difference in catching a momentary replay.

Engzell took part in the first attempts to equip referees with cameras at the French Open last year. Jean-Patrick Reydellet, head of refereeing at the French Open, said this involved buying a bunch of GoPros and strapping them to the referee's chest. They did not share the images with television partners, but reviewed them after matches.

The results weren't great. Some nice views of the track, but the angle didn't quite work. Additionally, referees don't move their chests much, so there was a lot of footage of the top of the net and the touchscreen that the referee operates.

Engzell said the chest camera also created a difficult setup for female referees.

Reydellet and his staff evaluated the cameras officials wear in the NBA, rugby and other sports. The ear arrangement seemed the best. Willing referees tried them out in the qualifying tournament two weeks ago and gave them a thumbs up, especially after seeing how the camera could show exactly how they were inspecting a ball mark to see if it landed on the line, by looking at the outline to follow the ball. the clay to compete for its girth.

GettyImages 2155761724 scaled e1717580656781


Corentin Moutet pleads his case as the referee's camera is visible (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

That didn't really work out. Part of the reason is that the referees only have to take one look, leaving the viewer with a disorienting head bob and little else. It also doesn't 'sell' the decision very well to fans and players – a problem football has experienced with video assistant referee (VAR) when referees change a decision without looking at it themselves.

go deeper

“It is a camera that clearly needs to improve,” says Reydellet. “Probably smaller, probably long-lasting batteries, probably different settings we can work on.”

Part of the purpose is also to show how complex the task is. The French Open wants to use the footage to teach aspiring referees, to give viewers an idea of ​​everything a player has to do, and to add a new layer of transparency to the refereeing process and its myriad duties.

In an interview, Helwerth listed the checklist he performs at each point.

Check if the receiver is ready, if the ball kids are in place, if the line judges are where they should be, deactivate the serve clock, after you just turned it on, enter the last point on the tablet, check the crowd. When it's over, glance at the loser of the point to make sure he or she behaves. If they come over to talk, turn off the stadium microphone (but not the main camera, of course) and then turn it back on.

“We're not bored there,” he said.

This year the cameras are only being used on the main pitch, but it's hard not to see them moving to other courts in the future, especially after a referee inspected the wrong ball marking to decide a point on court Simonne-Mathieu in a match between Zheng Qinwen and Elina Avanesyan.

Maybe next year someone watching a monitor under the stadium can shout into a channel, “No, not that one!”

That would be nice. Not as nice as Moutet's recording.

(Top photo: Eurosport)

Related Posts

  • Sports
  • June 19, 2024
  • 2 views
  • 6 minutes Read
Prediction Germany vs. Hungary: Where to watch Euro 2024, live stream online, odds, TV channel

Getty Images After getting off to a hot start and winning the opening match of UEFA Euro 2024 5-1 against Scotland, Germany face Hungary on Wednesday for their second match…

  • Sports
  • June 19, 2024
  • 6 views
  • 7 minutes Read
Kylian Mbappe injury: French star undergoes surgery, status vs Netherlands, will he wear a mask?

France captain Kylian Mbappe suffered a broken nose in his team's victory over Austria at the 2024 European Championship on Monday, which could hamper his ability to represent the national…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

shares, news and UK inflation data

  • June 19, 2024
shares, news and UK inflation data

10 ways BPD services can effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life

  • June 19, 2024
10 ways BPD services can effectively manage symptoms and improve quality of life

How grounding came into existence and its modern applications

  • June 19, 2024
How grounding came into existence and its modern applications

As 'zombie deer disease' spreads, scientists search for answers

  • June 19, 2024
As 'zombie deer disease' spreads, scientists search for answers

Here are Wall Street's favorite picks in the S&P 500 for the second half of the year

  • June 19, 2024
Here are Wall Street's favorite picks in the S&P 500 for the second half of the year

Here is the complete list of hurricane names for the 2024 season

  • June 19, 2024
Here is the complete list of hurricane names for the 2024 season

How to protect yourself from a passive-aggressive partner

  • June 19, 2024
How to protect yourself from a passive-aggressive partner

Large wildfires create weather that promotes more fire

  • June 19, 2024
Large wildfires create weather that promotes more fire

Britain is investigating HPE's planned $14 billion takeover of Juniper Networks

  • June 19, 2024
Britain is investigating HPE's planned $14 billion takeover of Juniper Networks

Nvidia overnight rally lifts chip-related stocks in Asia on AI optimism

  • June 19, 2024
Nvidia overnight rally lifts chip-related stocks in Asia on AI optimism

Six scary predictions that early science fiction authors got completely wrong

  • June 19, 2024
Six scary predictions that early science fiction authors got completely wrong