Tempe, Ariz. (August 26, 2019) – Today, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is excited to announce that it has officially approved PlaySight’s PlayFair video challenge replay system heading into the 2019-2020 season after a successful three-year pilot. PlayFair enables multi-angle video review for line call challenges, with the mission to improve sportsmanship throughout college tennis and increase participation in and viewership of the sport.
The ITA, the governing body of men’s and women’s college tennis, first piloted PlaySight’s PlayFair technology at the 2016 SoCal Intercollegiate Championships. Since then, there have been over 100 PlayFair-sanctioned college tennis matches. PlayFair video replay is a feature of PlaySight’s Smart AI and connected camera sports technology platform, giving tennis players the ability to challenge line calls made by their opponents or an official’s overrule. This is a concept widely used in other sports, including football (challenge flags and official reviews), basketball (NBA Replay Center) and soccer (VAR technology).
The ITA has established itself as a technology leader, and this announcement further solidifies the forward-looking focus that the organization is bringing to college tennis. Dr. Timothy Russell, CEO of the ITA, reflected on the importance of PlaySight’s work in saying, “The foundation of the long history of the game of tennis is built on integrity. In the fast-paced world of the 21st century, our Association is committed to reclaiming the honor and future of our sport. Hopefully the ITA’s thought leadership as coupled with PlaySight’s high impact cutting-edge technology will inspire a resurgence of improved sportsmanship in the ranks of junior and grassroots tennis as well as at the collegiate level, setting a new standard for how the sport of tennis should be played.”
Josh Graves, PlaySight’s Head of Tennis, has seen PlayFair develop firsthand. “In professional tennis matches, there are numerous line judges, an umpire and most of the time a challenge system. In college tennis matches, players are expected to make accurate and unbiased calls for themselves while operating under an environment similar to the most intense Davis Cup matches.” As a former standout tennis player at Northwestern University, Graves understands the importance of replay technology. “PlayFair takes some of this pressure off of the student-athletes, increasing the level of play and sportsmanship. We even see the occasional slow clap from the crowd leading up to the challenge ruling, creating the kind of atmosphere you’d see in Arthur Ashe Stadium.”
Paul Annacone, Tennis Channel Commentator and former coach to both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, believes that PlayFair can have the same impact on tennis that line call challenge technology has had on the pro tours. “It is terrific news to hear that college tennis is officially adopting and implementing PlayFair. This technology relieves players of the responsibility of very challenging decisions, allowing them to focus more on playing. The review system in professional tennis has been well received and I’m sure the same will happen with PlayFair at the college and junior levels.”
Darren Cahill, a Tennis Analyst for ESPN and former coach to Simona Halep, Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, believes that video replay has the potential to transform more than just college tennis. “Replay technology has had a positive impact on professional tennis, and it is great for the sport to see PlaySight and the ITA leading the way with it at the collegiate level. I look forward to soon seeing PlayFair throughout junior tennis as well, increasing sportsmanship in competitive matches for the next generation of tennis players.”
Several college programs served as early adopters and test sites for PlayFair, playing a key role in the technology’s development, including Princeton University and the University of Iowa. “PlayFair represents a wonderful opportunity for college tennis to utilize cutting-edge technology designed to assist officials in making accurate decisions during dual matches. As we have seen in other sports, replay technology is invaluable when one considers the high stakes nature of collegiate athletics,” said Billy Pate, Head Coach of Princeton’s men’s tennis team. Sasha Schmid, the women’s tennis Head Coach at the University of Iowa, is similarly excited about the rule change. “We have used the PlayFair system in five of our dual matches, and in all aspects, it has been a great tool for both teams. The video review has been decisive and timely and play resumes quickly.”
Grant Chen, the Head Coach of the men’s team at SMU, experienced the technology while at UCLA and is now bringing it to SMU. “PlayFair has changed our game to help promote and ensure proper line calls. We are excited to have PlaySight and the PlayFair technology at SMU. I know it will allow players, coaches and officials to focus on the tennis and allow peace of mind for all during competition.”
The officials at the ITA have also been quick to learn and embrace the video replay system. “Widespread adoption of video replay technology at the collegiate level means not only equalizing the sport under otherwise potentially unfair conditions, but also makes it more similar to the pro level, enabling players and coaches to focus more on the game of tennis and less on potential problematic conditions and outcomes,” said ITA official Sean Cook.
Albert Ton, another ITA official, added that “Video replay encourages fair play in the tense, high-stakes environment that is college tennis. Players win now because of their effort, determination and hard work, rather than tight line calls. As an official, I've seen video replay and PlayFair grow as a product and believe that it will change college tennis for better.”
"We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the ITA in pursuing our shared mission: to improve sportsmanship in college tennis and raise the profile and visibility of the sport on a global scale,” concluded Graves.
About the Intercollegiate Tennis Association
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is committed to serving college tennis and returning the leaders of tomorrow. As the governing body of college tennis, the ITA oversees men’s and women’s varsity tennis at NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College divisions. The ITA administers a comprehensive awards and rankings program for men’s and women’s varsity players, coaches and teams in all divisions, providing recognition for their accomplishments on and off the court. For more information on the ITA, visit the ITA website at www.itatennis.com , like the ITA on Facebook or follow @ITA_Tennis on Twitter and Instagram.
About PlaySight Interactive
Selected twice by Fast Company as one of the top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Sport, PlaySight is powering the next generation of athletes with its Smart sports AI and connected camera technology platform. PlaySight technology helps athletes all over the world improve faster. Clients include the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, as well as Ohio State, Duke, Stanford and over 80 other NCAA and NJCAA programs. PlaySight also works with leading federations and organizations, such as the United States Tennis Association’s National Campus, Ripken Baseball and many more.