Imagine this scenario unfolding in a few weeks' time: Andre Agassi v Roger Federer, US Open final, fifth set, full house, match point. Agassi whips a shot past Federer and drops to his knees, celebrating a Grand Slam title in his last tournament as a pro. The crowd goes wild.
Uh, hold on a second. Federer walks over to the chair umpire and challenges the call. Agassi gets up. Fans hush. Everyone looks up at the overhead screen to watch a video replay and ... the call stands. Agassi drops to his knees again. Cue the crowd.
Anticlimactic? Perhaps. But the man in charge of the US Open wouldn't mind: Arlen Kantarian wants to make sure calls are correct, which is part of why the challenge system will make its Grand Slam debut in Flushing Meadows a week from yesterday.
"This thing is changing outcomes of matches -- so, so far, so good," Kantarian, a US Tennis Association executive, said in a telephone interview. "It's been met with virtually complete support on the part of the players. Hey, the lack of controversy has been no fun at all," he said.
Kantarian followed that line with a chuckle, but there's certainly some underlying truth there.
After all, one goal of using replay is to try to make sure there's no repeat of the obvious-to-everyone-but-the-umpire missed calls in a 2004 US Open match between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati. Another goal is to add spice to the sport.
It's why the WTA Tour is allowing on-court coaching. Why the US Open courts are now blue. Anything to draw attention.
"It's about marrying a sport that's been steeped in tradition with innovation," Kantarian said. "We've got to give the players some recourse and the fans some more excitement -- and, so far, instant replay has done both."
* Each player gets two challenges per set to review line calls.
* A graphic rendering of the shot in question is played on the on-court video screen that the players, officials and fans can see. The ball's landing spot is shown.
* If the replay shows the original call was wrong, the player keeps that challenge. If the original call was right, the player loses that challenge.
* Each player will get an extra challenge if a set goes to a tiebreaker.
* Players cannot carry over challenges from one set to the next.
* At the US Open, the system will be used for matches at the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums.
The system will make its Grand Slam debut on Monday.