The dust has settled or should I say the noise has subsided at the Australian Open and the tennis community is hailing the rise of Queen Victoria (Azarenka). But during the two weeks of the year’s first major, which...
The dust has settled or should I say the noise has subsided at the Australian Open and the tennis community is hailing the rise of Queen Victoria (Azarenka). But during the two weeks of the year’s first major, which was a phenomenal success, one matter prevailed over all else for discussion and that was grunting. The gay marriage issue that was fuelled by tennis legend Margaret Court lasted a day, a suspect surface on one court barely raised an eyebrow but when it came to noise, oh my gosh there was no end in it being talked about. Taking centre stage was Victoria “Vika” Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. Their grunts, when they struck the ball, had people racing for the TV remotes to hit mute or people in the stands covering their ears. And then to rub it in, the two of them met in the final, a final that was dubbed the “loudest final in tennis” I seem to have become oblivious to the whole situation. Sometimes the noise triggers the volume control on my brain and I hear it, but generally I don’t. The shrills, the shrieks, the squawks and the grunts don’t register. I would be curious to hear what your thoughts are on it so let us know at wearetennis.bnpparibas. Can anything be done about it? Well at this point in time nothing as far as the public is concerned but if a player is distracted then they can ask for the hindrance rule to be imposed but if an opponent is not prepared to raise that rule to the chair umpire, nothing will be said. Observers and past players say its cheating because you need to hear the ball making contact with the racquet strings. But if a player is not objecting then it’s not bothering them so how is it cheating? Let’s not just point the finger at Azarenka and Sharapova; Francesca Schiavone is loud and youngster Michelle Larcher de Brito easily would drown out a 747 taking off. It seems that 99.9% of the players don’t get affected because they don’t say anything. Agnieszka Radwanska pointed the finger at Maria Sharapova. Sharapova’s retort: “She said that after her loss? Where is she now, Poland?” In other words, she was griping because she lost. I also think grunting sounds louder at places like the Australian Open, US Open, Miami etc because the courts are hard and the noise is not absorbed as much. At Roland Garros and Wimbledon the surfaces are natural and it doesn’t sound as bad - I’m not saying it doesn’t exist – but it’s not as prevalent. Consider this, walk on a concrete footpath in leather shoes and you will hear the sound but walk on grass with the same shoes and it will be muffled. There are suggestions that the WTA Tour may introduce some sort of regulation on grunting to try and make things a level playing field but how is that a level playing field if the player making the noise is penalised? Some say they don’t grunt when they are in the warm up before the match starts, well the intensity is not there at that time. The players who grunt etc say they have done it since childhood and it helps them produce a bit more energy. Expelling air from the lungs allows them to have more impact and that converts to the noises made. Much of this started with Monica Seles who had a noise that sounded as if she was screaming out to someone named Henri, maybe it was Leconte. But it’s all very well for me to say it doesn’t bother me anymore because I am used to it, it’s obviously not the case for most others so tell me what you do when watching the tennis and the players start to sound like a lot of banshees. A reading was done and their screams were measured at over 90 decibels. Instead, maybe it’s a case of you’d rather go and see the film “The Artist” where you can sit in silence. Ironically when she won the title Vika slumped to her knees in silence and mouthed to her friends and team, “what happened?”