Susie Rushton: It's not the grunting that's the problem

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The Independent Online

Has the expensive new roof over Centre Court sealed SW19 in a time capsule of 1950s gender attitudes? Before the first ball was served, the debate over "grunting" female players had seasoned commentators in a huff. Condemned for being, alternately, titillating, ridiculous and inappropriately shrill, players like the full-voiced Michelle Larcher De Brito needed to jolly well tone it down, said the gents in the press box.

"There was a point on the opening Monday when visitors to Wimbledon must have felt they had taken a wrong turn into the maternity ward of St George's Hospital, Tooting," snorted The Daily Telegraph's tennis correspondent, who perhaps hadn't been present at the birth of his children. Ex-champion Michael Stich complained the sound was "unsexy". Martina Navratilova called it cheating. (Then again, she's probably still sore from the beating she took from moaning Monica Seles in 1992 at Wimbledon.)

But Larcher De Brito wasn't having any of it. "I'm here to win," she said, "If people don't like my grunting, they can always leave." Right on! It's a shame the 16-year-old's own agent wasn't more supportive.

"She's a beautiful girl with a beautiful game and will be a great player," purred Fernando Soler, head of tennis at sprawling sports agency IMG, revealing his priorities for the girl's career. "She doesn't need to make headlines about the wrong things."

The problem with women's tennis at the moment isn't the grunting but, as James Lawton wrote in these pages, a depressing lack of outstandingly talented athletes.

In the meantime, the message is: look good, and shut up. On beating former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova on Wednesday, Argentinean Gisela Dulko was told by one hack that she was his paper's new pin-up. Dulko fell for it. "That's very nice. I've always said I'm not only a tennis player, but also a woman." Yes, but you're on the telly because you're playing tennis.

Round up the 99p price tag

I'm launching a new consumer campaign: Round up the Pound. On three occasions in the last fortnight I've handed over cash for an item costing, say, £2.99 or £4.95, and been short-changed – deliberately, without apology or query – for that precious 1p or even 5p.

We've brought this on ourselves. You don't always want to hang around for the single penny, especially if the assistant has to search around in the till for a coin. The sheer weight and volume of "shrapnel" is off-putting too. I know about that: I live with a man who keeps his coppers in plastic bags. Filthy lucre indeed. Then again, if you don't take the change, you risk appearing arrogant: "Coins? Keep 'em. I've got a superyacht to catch." Or, worse, like you're trying to give the cashier an insultingly minuscule tip.

Since pennies have become worthless, and etiquette for both cashier and cashee on the matter has become unclear, I suggest it's time to dump the 99p price tag. Who was it kidding anyway?