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Women's game unveils 'reality TV' innovations in Miami

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Mar 22 (Reuters) Women's tennis will embrace a new technological era by introducing mid-match television interviews, instant TV replays to decide line calls and enhanced microphones at this week's Miami event.

The changes, which have the players' support, mean the likes of Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova will conduct television interviews moments before stepping on court and their coaches will share their thoughts with viewers during matches.

Instant replays are also being used to decide close line-calls for the first time on the professional tour in the dual men's and women's event in Miami.

WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said the innovations heralded a new era for the traditionally conservative sport.

''The changes we're announcing today represent a significant cultural shift,'' Scott told Reuters by telephone. ''The ball is starting to roll on these things.

''Tennis is a sport with a lot of heritage and traditions and protocols. I think tennis has probably relied on those traditions too much and we haven't pushed the envelope the way other sports have to utilise technology and to look at making changes to our rules.

''Reality TV is a reality. People expect more 'behind the scenes', more 'in your face', more different insights into what they are watching. This is the way society is changing and we're determined to make sure our sport keeps up with the times.'' In addition to the player and coach interviews, enhanced microphones will be placed on court and on the umpire's chair.

Dee Dutta, marketing head of WTA Tour sponsors Sony Ericsson, said players would also be miked up during practice matches, though not during tournament play.

Scott said the WTA had drafted in Hollywood expertise to help the players understand what TV viewers expected.

''(On Monday) here in Miami we had a session with a Hollywood director about what's happening in the entertainment and media worlds, to try to have the players understand what the consumer at home wants,'' he said.

''It was very warmly received. Having the players be open not only to these first steps but where it may be leading is critical if this access is to be good access.

''We're trying to tell more of a story to the viewers, trying to give greater insights into the players personalities, what's going on in their heads before and around matches.'' REUTERS PM RN1229

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