Wimbledon plans to blunt the grunt
WIMBLEDON umpires could be equipped with grunt–ometers so that they can dock points from female players who distract opponents with loud shrieks, the Women's Tennis Association announced yesterday.
The plan to drive out the grunting associated with players such as Maria Sharapova is in its infancy but the association has said that off–putting wails can no longer be tolerated.
"It's time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations," said Stacey Allaster, the WTA chairman and chief executive.
"The bottom line is that we want to bring forward across all levels of competition an objective rule through use of technology."
The loudest known grunt came from Sharapova, who in 2009 was recorded at 105 decibels – equivalent to standing 3ft from a chainsaw.
Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club said: "We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting."
The new rules were agreed earlier this month by the WTA, the International Tennis Federation and representatives from all four Grand Slams, after advice was taken from experts in the fields of sports science and psychology as well as past and present players including Venus and Serena Williams and Monica Seles.
A maximum acceptable noise level will be set after more analysis.
Umpires will then be equipped with a hand–held device designed specifically to measure the grunting levels on court.
Those who break the limit could be forced to replay a point or have points docked, although the penalties for breaking the rules have not yet been established.
The rules will be phased in gradually at junior and lower–tier events.
RBS yesterday cancelled its £260,000 hospitality package at Wimbledon, which offered clients four–course courtside lunches, despite having already paid for the suite. The bailed–out bank said it was inappropriate to be seen to provide client hospitality at a time when so many customers were experiencing disruptions.