Tennis takes action against grunters (but it's too late to silence Sharapova)

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Wimbledon has asked the professional game to do something about it, Michael Stich once called it "disgusting, ugly, unsexy", while 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. "On that basis, we should look at it," she said. "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 and it is amplified," she said. "Grunting is a normal part of our sport. The guys are grunting as well. 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. Portuguese player Michelle Larcher de Brito, who at 18 is one of the youngest of today's screamers, is also a Bollettieri product.

Grunters usually say the noise comes naturally to them, as part of their action in hitting a shot. But the normally easy-going Wozniacki – who is not a grunter – does not believe that is always the case. "I think there are some players who do it on purpose," the Dane said. "They don't do it in practice, they come in the match and they grunt. I think they could definitely cut it. I don't mind doing a bit of grunting or something if it's natural, or like Rafa grunting because he's putting the effort in."

Wozniacki, who was playing her opening match at the WTA Championships last night against Agnieszka Radwanska, said grunting can give players an advantage. "If you grunt really loudly, your opponent cannot hear the ball, cannot hear how you hit it," she said. "It's a little bit different because you think the grunt is so loud, you think the ball is coming fast and suddenly the ball just goes like this [slowly]."

"Grunting can definitely be a little bit disturbing, especially for the crowd. I've had a lot of people come up to me and say, 'It's not really nice. We always turn the volume off'. That's not what you want to hear."

Making a racquet: The four biggest culprits

Serena Williams

As if the sight of Williams belting the ball was not scary enough for opponents, the former world No 1 can also let out an intimidating howl when under pressure. She once remarked that the noise "didn't affect her at all". Her opponents might feel differently.

Annoyance rating 3/5

Decibels 90

Maria Sharapova

The "Queen of Scream" says she has made the noise ever since she started playing the game. "This question only comes up at Wimbledon," she once said. "I'm not going to change." Her scream is just nine decibels quieter than a lion's roar.

Annoyance rating 3/5

Decibels 101

Victoria Azarenka

Her wail is usually not as loud as Sharapova's scream, it being only as loud as a lawnmower, but it goes on for longer. Her average screams were recorded to last 1.5 seconds, long enough to be still ongoing while her opponent is returning the ball. One observer said the Belarusian sounded like "Mickey Mouse in distress".

Annoyance rating 4/5

Decibels 95

Michelle Larcher de Brito

The Portuguese player's yelps led to an opponent at the 2009 French Open complaining to the umpire. She has also been known to greet her opponents' mistakes with similar shrieks. Her scream is the loudest among the top players, just 11 decibels quieter than a chainsaw.

Annoyance rating 5/5

Decibels 109

Paul Newman

News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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.

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?