Coaching report: Grunting



Is it cheating to grunt during play?

Let's get one thing straight right away. I have never taught anyone to grunt. It's just not part of the coaching regime at my academy.

Grunting on the courts may be a lot of things, including annoying, but it certainly isn't cheating, since it's been done under the watchful eyes (and ears) of umpires for decades with few complaints and fewer sanctions.

Three of the top female players of all time – Monica Seles, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova - have all been associated with making noise when making impact with the ball.

But to suggest that these women (all of whom, by the way, have trained at my academy) have cheated their way to 32 Grand Slam championships and more than 100 titles is offensive – and wrong.

Grunting is neither new nor uncommon in tennis or, for that matter, many sports that require great physical exertion.

So why is grunting a big deal again today?

What elevated this issue from a whisper to a roar was a recent match in the third round of the French Open in which Michelle Larcher De Brito, a 16-year-old who also trains at the Bollettieri Academy, took the customary noise levels of mere grunting to howling – even shrieking.

Trust me, I was there and it was loud.

Her opponent, Aravane Rezai, who went on to win the match, complained to the umpire who issued an informal warning, but the match – and the wailing – continued unabated.

It raised in my mind whether some sort of regulation, or noise-measuring technology, might be called for. Tennis uses innovation in other areas. You may recall the 2004 US Open quarter-final between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati in which bad line calls led to Serena being eliminated, and "Hawk-Eye" technology being introduced.

So how should we handle grunting?

If "noise pollution" on the courts intensifies, we may again need to employ technology so that certain offending players are penalised fairly and consistently when they go beyond "acceptable" natural levels. Parabolic microphones, already in widespread use, have the capability of measuring minute sound level and may eventually be required.

However, I would advocate, at least initially, a common-sense "lower-tech" approach which would encourage chair umpires to rule on noise complaints from opposing players or to take the initiative when confronted with obvious unacceptable transgressions.

A series of graduating penalties – loss of point, loss of game, loss of match – could, and should, be employed.

With Wimbledon coming up later this month, there couldn't be a better time, or a better venue, to bring back some peace and quiet – and yes, some dignity – to our sport

election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'