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Evert joins 'grunting' debate

Three-time former Wimbledon champion Chris Evert has backed the move to eradicate grunting from tennis, accusing modern-day players of cynically using the tactic at strategic moments in points.

Ex-world number one Martina Navratilova is leading the call for grunting to be stamped out of women's tennis, with Wimbledon officials promising to take up the fight during this year's tournament.

Maria Sharapova, up-and-coming Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, head the list of those dishing out the decibel damage on court.

Evert, in Sydney today with husband Greg Norman to promote his appearance at this year's Australian Golf Open, stopped short of labelling grunting cheating.

But she is concerned it is becoming a tactic to win critical points.

"The next time you watch Maria Sharapova, the grunting is consistent but when she has a set-up to hit a winner the grunting gets louder and that's a bit distracting to me because basically you're hearing a loud grunt before you see the shot," the 18-time grand slam winner said.

"It doesn't come while they hit the shot, it comes before they hit the shot so that's the first thing you hear and you're kind of thrown off guard and then before you know it the ball gets past you.

"That's the thing that I observe as a player... it comes before they hit the shot and they get louder when they hit the winner.

"I don't know how you measure it or what you do but as a player - and I was known for my concentration - it is distracting."

Evert 'credited' Monica Seles for introducing grunting into women's tennis, saying the majority of players from her era played with the volume turned right down.

She scoffed at suggestions players need to exhale before striking the ball.

"I don't understand. They say you've got to blow air out before you hit the ball and I'm thinking 'well, Steffi Graf hit the ball a ton and she didn't grunt'," Evert said.

"There were a lot of players who were hard-hitting players that you never heard a peep out of, so I don't understand the philosophy of it.

"I wouldn't go that far (to say it's cheating) but I think the grunts are getting louder and more shrill now with the current players."