The pop of a ball hitting a racquet, punctuated by a loud “gnnuh!” has become a familiar sound at professional tennis matches. But according to the head of Wimbledon, those high-pitched cries emitted by athletes are getting out of hand.
Female tennis players are spoiling the game with their loud grunts, Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, told The Daily Telegraph, noting that fans and tournament officials alike are becoming frustrated by the noises.
“We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting,” Mr. Ritchie said.
He added: “...if you say ‘what do you get most letters about’, I would say that grunting is high up. So we are aware, whether you are watching it on TV or here, people don’t particularly like it.”
At the SW19 championships, Victoria Azarenka, from Belarus, measured 95 decibels with her grunts during her match against Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia. The length of each of her cries was at least 1.5 seconds, the Telegraph said.
According to the BBC , the practice of measuring the volume of grunts with a “gruntometer” was inspired by Monica Seles, who registered 93.2 decibels in 1992. A long line of grunting players has since followed suit, including Anna Kournikova, Lindsay Davenport, and Venus and Serena Williams. Maria Sharapova hit a record in 2009 with a 105-decibel yelp.
( The Daily Mail put this in perspective in a report last year by noting that a lion’s roar measures 110 decibels. At the time, tennis officials told the newspaper they were considering a ban on grunting.)
While some explain grunting is simply a natural release of energy, others suggest it’s a deliberate measure to intimidate or distract one’s opponent, and one that’s even encouraged by some tennis coaches.
Last year, a study by researchers from the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and the University of British Columbia offered evidence that tennis grunts do, indeed, interfere with an opponent’s performance.
What do you think? Is grunting in tennis over the top, or just part of the game?
Editor's note: Ian Ritchie is the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. The club was misidentified in an earlier version of this story. It has been corrected.