Chris McGrath: Cries to stop the grunting get louder – but will they fall on deaf ears?

So now you are supposed to win a tennis tournament without a racket? Well, no. You can still use the type woven with catgut. But the sort of din associated with the live disembowelment of felines may no longer be tolerated.

Spectators of women's tennis, in particular, increasingly run the risk of perforated eardrums. The first – or primal – screamer was Monica Seles, but she could be readily indulged for an otherwise graceful nature. After all, Seles knew all too well how it feels to be attacked by a real, knife-wielding maniac, whereas nobody has ever seen the ones who seemingly appear before Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters every time they strike the ball.

Opponents and spectators have come to view their caterwauling as an offensive distraction, suspecting downright gamesmanship. Those professing a cynicism of their own wonder if Sharapova, Serena and Venus have effectively been engaged in yet another kind of racket – knowing that their collective profile and achievement requires officialdom to tiptoe nervously around their self-regard.

If so, the regulators will perhaps be grateful for the emergence of a 16-year-old from Portugal named Michelle Larcher de Brito. As a relatively soft target, she has become the cue for what many – not least Martina Navratilova, who speaks candidly of "cheating" – consider overdue reform.

Up until now, those debating the phenomenon have tended to describe it as "grunting". Larcher de Brito shows that to be a wholly inadequate term. By all accounts, she is an extremely talented prospect, and as such has been granted a wild card at Wimbledon. But she may find members of the Noise Abatement Society issuing ear plugs not just to spectators, but to every household in SW19.

Some "grunters" have invoked the labour ward; others, banshees or light artillery. Sharapova, inevitably, has prompted more salacious analogies. As was evident at the Liverpool International Open this week, Larcher de Brito takes things to unprecedented, bloodcurdling extremes. Given a decent baseline rally, she could pulverise the Rock of Gibraltar. At the French Open, Aravane Rezai became so distressed by her opponent that she complained to the umpire, who issued an unofficial warning. If anything, it was Larcher de Brito who then became distracted, and she lost the match, but was booed off the court even so.

It is already possible for umpires to dock a point for "noise hindrance", but now consideration is being given to upgrading the offence so that even a match might be forfeited. And Wimbledon is thought the obvious place to restore a sense of etiquette, not to mention elegance, to the "ladies".

As it happens, some effort was made to stifle Seles there in 1992, and she proved uncharacteristically muted in losing the final. But the dilemma remains how to establish culpable intent. Some coaches tell youngsters that exhaling aggressively on the point of impact brings physiological and psychological benefits – a sense of control and timing, along with the extra power attributed to a tightened diaphragm in martial arts.

But athletes in other exacting sports seem to manage without this kind of vivid agony, while male tennis players have largely abjured the example of Jimmy Connors (who may well have feared that his game otherwise lacked machismo). Yet Sharapova is liable to approach 100 decibels in feathering a drop volley.

Navratilova points out that it is important to be able to hear the racket hit the ball, and that the inability to do so confers a corresponding tactical advantage. Bill Babcock, its Grand Slam director, has meanwhile traced fresh concern at the International Tennis Federation to the duration of Larcher de Brito's howls. "The noise extends into the hitting preparation time of her opponent," he noted.

Even without all this wailing, there is much gnashing of teeth on the women's tour, which is widely said to need renewal in both character and class. By the same token, no doubt, some of its bigger egos – its big noises, so to speak – perceive their vocation as spicing up the game's demure conventions with a bit of real life, a bit of urban gusto.

They probably enjoy the fuss, some of them. Like finding the next-door neighbour on the threshold, in miserable obedience to his spouse, groping for some bourgeois formula to request a little less volume in the bedroom. And nothing will improve until they recognise the situation as equally mortifying for both parties. Or, to put it another way: ENNNOUUUGH!

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
tv
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments