Female tennis players who grunt too loudly are putting off their opponents and spoiling the game for the millions of spectators, the head of Wimbledon said yesterday.
In an interview with a newspaper, Ian Ritchie admitted tournament officials were becoming increasingly uneasy about the practice.
As the Championships celebrate its 125th anniversary this year Mr Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club , said fans were also becoming frustrated with loud players who they believe are spoiling the game.
He blamed younger players, whom he said suffered from an “education problem” about the issue.
On the first day of the SW19 championships, Victoria Azarenka, of Belarus, a player often criticised for her wails, edged towards record noise levels as she made her debut on Court No 2.
Noise machines recorded her reach a level of 95 decibels as she shrieked her way through the first round match against Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova.
Spectators looked on amused, not only at the volume but also the length of her roars, which exceeded 1.5 seconds almost every time she hit the ball before play was suspended due to rain.
Mr Ritchie, a former television and news executive, admitted that officials would “prefer to see less grunting”.
“The players have an ability to complain about it, if one player is grunting too much and the other player doesn’t like it and it is distracting, they can complain to the umpire,” he said
“We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting.”
“We are one tournament in a global circuit. But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.”
The loudest known grunt came from Maria Sharapova, who sent the sound monitor into new realms with a recording of 105 decibels in 2009.
Mr Ritchie added: “I think there is an education problem with younger players. And certainly my postbag, 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.”