Ah, the start of Wimbledon Fortnight. Two weeks of tennis whites, polite applause, Royalty, and strawberries and cream.
And grunts. Don’t forget the grunts. Especially the ladies’ grunts.
If some of the newspapers this week are to believed, that’s what modern tennis is all about.
The history of the grunt
Men’s tennis grunts started back in the 1970s with Jimmy Connors, and the popularity soon spread among the guys. In the 1988 US Open, Ivan Lendl complained about opponent Andre Agassi‘s grunts, saying they threw him, Lendl, off his timing.
Women’s tennis took a little longer to catch on, starting with Monica Seles‘s guttural shrieks in the 1990s. Once started, though, the women soon raised grunting to an art form, or at least another sport, putting the men’s feeble efforts to shame.
Serve in silence
Fans and media, however, are not amused by Centre Court’s soundtrack, and Martina Navratilova, a champion when women’s tennis was played in dignified silence, also disapproves. Her view is that the grunt masks the sound of the ball leaving the grunter’s racquet, putting the non-grunting opponent at a disadvantage.
“The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done.”
World Tennis Association chairman and chief executive, Stacey Allaster, agrees:
“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations.”
Quite how this will be achieved, though, is rather vague. A fine for noisy players. perhaps? It would have to be a big one to have any effect. Michelle Larcher de Brito, the Portuguese player, and rumoured to be the next Maria Sharapova as far as grunt volume goes, reportedly said:
“I’d rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting.”
The WTA is quick to point out that current players will not have to curb their on-court vocal emissions. The ban on grunts will be phased in after a period of educating up-and-coming players in grunt etiquette.
In the mean time, however, perhaps the solution would be to make Grunting an official Olympic sport, permissible only at Olympics (i.e. every four years) and not at Grand Slam tournaments.
With grunt decibel readings at similar levels to pneumatic drills, that would be music to everyone’s ears.
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