Tuesday 24 October 2017

Tennis chiefs say grunters make too big a racket

Paul Newman in London

Wimbledon has asked the professional game to do something about it, Michael Stich once called it "disgusting, ugly, unsexy", and world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki says it can adversely affect an opponent and that some players do it deliberately.

With spectators and television viewers increasingly put off by the grunting and shrieking of several female players, the Women's Tennis Association is seeking to reduce the decibel levels on court.

Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive of the body that runs the women's tour, revealed at the season-ending WTA Championships in Istanbul that young players are to be targeted.

One of the first moves will be to talk to juniors at Nick Bollettieri's academy in Florida, which has produced some of the game's noisiest players -- although Mr Bollettieri insists he and his coaches have never encouraged players to grunt.


Ms Allaster said the WTA had noticed a "slight increase" in fans' complaints about grunting.

"The athletes of today have trained their entire lives and prepared to compete the way they do. So we need some education with the juniors.

"We're working with the International Tennis Federation. Our team will go down to Bollettieri's and meet coaches and young players."

Grunting had been "part of our sport for years", Ms Allaster said, but improved technology had made television viewers in particular more aware of it. "There are more microphones out there, there's digital-quality of sound," she said.

"Grunting is a normal part of our sport. But our female DNA transmits it in a different way."

While there are men who grunt -- Rafael Nadal is a notable groaner -- it is the pitch of the noise made by some of the women that has particularly grated with fans.

Victoria Azarenka, the world No 4 from Belarus, lets out high-pitched wails, each of which can last a second and a half, while former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova's grunt is more like a shriek or a scream.

Sharapova trained at the Bollettieri academy, as did nine-time grand slam winner Monica Seles, one of the earliest of the modern grunters. (©Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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