Despite the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), line judges will continue to play their role at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, at least for now. The All England Club and IBM recently unveiled new technologies that will be used during the event, including the use of AI to comment on key moments of matches on the tournament’s official website and app, as well as to determine the difficulty of each player’s path to the final.
Wimbledon, as the oldest Grand Slam tournament, prides itself on its traditions, which date back to 1877. However, they recognize the importance of technological innovation to remain at the forefront of tennis. Other tournaments, such as the Australian Open and US Open, have already adopted electronic umpiring as of 2021, and the ATP circuit announced in April that line judges will be progressively replaced as of 2025 to improve the accuracy and consistency of umpiring between tournaments.
At Wimbledon, Bill Jinks, the tournament’s chief technology officer, assures that line judges will continue to play their role this season but cannot guarantee what it will be like in the future. He acknowledges that the technology for line umpiring is constantly evolving and that it is difficult to predict what will happen. However, he rules out the possibility of a single artificial intelligence being able to referee uncontested.
Technological advancement has transformed the way society consumes sport, and Wimbledon is looking to adapt to this new reality to appeal to the next generation of fans. They are now focused on collecting vast amounts of data and turning it into information that can be shared with fans around the world through digital platforms. The goal is to use AI to generate sports commentary throughout a match, even in categories that don’t normally get as much attention, such as veterans, juniors, and wheelchair tennis. However, they emphasize that human intervention is still essential, and they are looking to find the right balance between tradition and innovation.
Although AI will play an increasingly important role at Wimbledon, line judges remain an integral part of the tournament, and their future will depend on how technology evolves and how that balance between the human and the digital is found.