Electronic Line Calling Live (ELC) is the future of ATP tennis, as technology will replace line judges from the 2025 season.
Earlier in 2023, the ATP officially announced that ELC Live would be used from the start of the 2025 season, replacing on-court judges who usually call any wide or long 'out' decisions during a match.
While the decision may seem drastic and sudden, it is one that has a long history within the game. The ATP's introduction of ELC is the next phase of modernising tennis officiating, which has roots in Hawk-Eye and other advancements in recent decades.
How will cameras and ball tracking take the place of human judgment? And will ELC prove to be a success or a step too soon for the ATP?
What is Electronic Line Calling in Tennis
Electronic Line Calling in tennis is an extension of the previously used Hawk-Eye system, whereby ten cameras and over 20 personnel monitored line calls via animated replays and triangulation. However, ELC is an upgraded system as calls are made in real-time rather than produced through a replay.
As a result, ELC can provide the same judgment as human line judges, but with more accuracy and the same speed. However, while judges will be replaced under the 2025 developments, the on-court umpire will remain to oversee further match rules and regulations.
The first ELC system was trailed at the 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals. Generally, the technology was viewed with success and several more events rolled out the use of ELC, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
For instance, it was used for the first time at a Grand Slam at the 2020 US Open, when ELC was implemented on the courts at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium. Then, the next big development came in January 2021, when all courts at the Australian Open had the technology instead of line judges.
The ATP's move represents a shift from more tried and tested methods, like human calling, to a new wave of technology in tennis.
Like any new initiative, there are pros and cons, but Andrea Gaudenzi, the ATP Chairman, explained that using ELC will bring more benefits to the sport.
“This is a landmark moment for our sport, and not one we’ve reached without careful consideration. Tradition is core to tennis and line judges have played an important part in the game over the years. "
"That said, we have a responsibility to embrace innovation and new technologies. Our sport deserves the most accurate form of officiating and we’re delighted to be able to deliver this across our whole Tour from 2025.”
Will ELC Be a Success?
Since the ATP's announcement in April 2023, several high-profile players have given their verdicts on ELC in tennis.
Novak Djokovic was one of the first to provide an opinion on the ATP's call to use the technology from 2025. In a balanced reflection, he inevitably said he feels it will be a positive for the future of tennis.
But not every player has agreed. The system has also been widely used in WTA events in recent years and Jelena Ostapenko questioned the accuracy of the ELC technology at the 2023 Australian Open and explained her mistrust towards it.
However, the WTA has not decided to follow the ATP's decision to roll out the ELC system universally for 2025.
Although there are arguments for both sides on ELC in tennis from 2025, it has already been utilised with little failure so far. Just like Hawk-Eye in 2006, there will be skepticism about the new initiative, but the long-term trials at multiple high-profile events have proven successful, which could signify good things for the system moving forward.