Grunting By Your Neighbor

maria sCan someone on the next court complain to a referee about the grunting noise a player is making – even though it is not on their court?

This situation came up at one of the January Florida Super Senior Grand Prix tournaments. A player on “Court #1” called over a USTA official to complain that the grunting when hitting the ball on “Court #2” was interfering with his ability to focus on his game.

Here is the rule:

Rule 37: Grunting. A player should avoid grunting and making other loud noises. Grunting and other loud noises may bother not only opponents but also players on adjacent courts. In an extreme case, an opponent or a player on an adjacent court may seek the assistance of an official. Grunting and the making of loud noises that affect the outcome of a point are hindrances. Only an official may rule that these actions are hindrances and order that a let be played or a loss of point, depending on whether an official had previously warned the offending player.

It is not clear what the referee can or should be able to do… tell the Grunter to tone it down or move one of the matches to a further court?

But in either case, it reaffirms that making loud noises when or after hitting the ball is a case for a hindrance — so, listen up Maria Sharapova! (I just put that in so I could use her picture again 🙂

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11 thoughts on “Grunting By Your Neighbor

  1. Sometimes I think tennis players are just crybabies, or excuse mongers. The guy on the next court (or your opponent) is grunting too loud and it bothers you? Get over it. Listen to Vivaldi or AC/DC in your head and focus on the ball harder. Next thing you know there is going to be a rule about wearing neon colored clothing – it will be banned because it “distracts” the opponent and could be a hindrance. Sheesh.

    Marty – i think there IS a rule against neon yellow clothing! tks, george.

  2. The code was written so you didn’t have to get over it. Those who use the long extended grunt do it for a reason. HMMMM what could it be?
    When you are so loud you bother the courts on either side or 2 courts away there is a problem.

  3. If you steal one point from your opponent because of the grunting it is wrong.

  4. To further explain my point, the problem is it becomes wholly subjective. If player X lets out a gasp of air when he hits – which many coaches will say you are supposed to do – is that a grunt that player Y can claim caused a hindrance? Most would say no, but there is nothing in the rule that would disallow it because it speaks of “grunting and other loud noises,” as if grunting alone is inherently loud, which it may or may not be. And at what point on the decibel scale is “loud,” well, loud? What is loud to you – or so you say – may be perfectly fine to me.

    And who is to say that player X is grunting for the purpose of distracting an opponent anyway? That is always the claim, and I am sure there is a minority who might be doing it for that reason, but I strongly doubt that is the reason for most grunters. For most grunters – clearly Sharipova included – it is just a habit that developed to allow better focus and more effort on hitting strokes. So, we are going to penalize people for having quirky tennis habits?

    Ok, I have a habit of dropping my toss two or three times before I actually hit a serve, not to distract anyone but because my toss basically sucks and often I don’t get it in the right spot to hit a good serve. I am sure, in fact 100% positive, this habit of mine distracts some players. But I am not doing it intentionally. It is just what I do. Should there be/ will there be now a rule that outlaws dropping a toss because some opponents don’t like it and they claim it distracts them.

    Finally, how loud is loud? I once lived in an apartment and I had an overly sensitive upstairs neighbor who complained constantly that I was playing my stereo too loud. I was sure I was not, because I could barely hear the thing myself after turning it down so many times in response to her complaints. Once she called the police on me. They showed up at my apartment, I let them in, and one officer said, “I can’t believe your neighbor is complaining about that. I can hardly hear it. But turn it down anyway, ok buddy?” The point is, now that there is an actual rule about grunting, it is not hard to see that the abusee could easily become the abuser, by complaining unreasonably that ANY noise the opponent makes has distracted that person. How do you prevent that? After all, the rule is subjective and who is to say who is lying, telling the truth or just finding another way to practice further gamesmanship.

    Bad rule. Stupid idea. People should just focus on the ball and play tennis without complaining. You don’t hear baseball players complaining about noise, do you?

    Marty – Rationalized well by a true Grunter! The people we are talking about make a loud and distracting noise. And yes, you would hear baseball players complain if the stadium was quiet and the pitcher screamed each time he released the ball. tks, george.

  5. To distill my point further, George, I am not against saying that a noise that is TOO loud would be a hindrance. It is making up a whole new rule to deal with it that I have a problem with. There already is a hindrance rule. It is not limited to non-noise situations, as far as I can recall. Therefore, why not use it if the situation is as egregious as you suggest? Why is there need for a whole rule that deals only with noise and grunting?

    Our tendency always is to draft new laws and rules every time we become aware of some situation that the social norm suggests it would be a good idea to legislate about. But as a person who has to deal with ill conceived new laws and rules every day, I can tell you from over 30 years of experience that there always are unintended consequences to these things and, in hindsight, there is frequently a backlash when people realize a new law or rule may not have been needed or such a good idea after all. Laws and rules do not replace common sense. However, when things get codified, they tend to take on a life of their own, and the questions I posed illustrate some issues that I predict will become problematic.

    I will finish with just one illustration of what I mean. I was watching the Djokovic/ Federer semifinal at Monte Carlo yesterday. The Joker tends to grunt on every point, albeit not in my judgment very loud or distracting. The Fed is totally silent when he hits the ball. Yet, based on a strict reading of the new rule that you quoted, technically the Fed could claim – or a chair umpire could rule – that EVERY shot that the Joker hits qualifies as a hindrance, because he literally grunts on every shot and any opponent might claim – or a chair umpire might determine – that the opponent is distracted by the grunting. Is this really the intended consequence of the rule? I have to think not. But go reread the rule. That is in fact what it seems to say.

  6. Marty – it is all a matter of gradations, just like in the law: if someone takes a pencil home from the office, it is no big deal; if someone shoplifts a six-pack of beer, it is a misdemeanor; if someone steals a diamond ring, it is a felony. there are noises and there are noises.

  7. The code only applies to those unchaired matches. We are talking about abuse such as yelling in a foreign language at the top of you voice after you miss a shot or grunting louder than normal when hitting a drop shot. Some of us use the grunt to deceive and distract.
    Some yell switch when they are at the net and their partner is at the baseline while their opponent strikes the ball. These are the extremes that we are really discussing.

  8. Shreiking, screaming, and loud grunting are all aggravating and antagonizing. But I agree with Marty’s points.

  9. Bill, at the risk of beating a dead horse, I have issues with your additional reasons to support this new rule:

    * “The code only applies to those unchaired matches” – I am not entirely sure of your point, but I thought The Code applied to all tennis matches, chaired or unchaired.

    * “We are talking about abuse such as yelling in a foreign language at the top of your voice after you miss a shot” – Again, I may be missing something, but I don’t get your point. If the person yelling in the foreign language does so after he has already missed the shot, then the opponent has already won the point. How is this behavior after the point is over a hindrance to the opponent? Yes, it may be rude, uncool or uncouth, but it cannot have distracted the opponent in the middle of a point because the point is finished. I grant you that it could also be so loud that it distracts people on another court, but I always thought the existing hindrance rule allows them to claim a let in that situation, much the same as if a ball from another court flew on their court in the middle of a point. What am I missing that this requires a new rule?

    * “Or grunting louder than normal when hitting a drop shot. Some of us use the grunt to deceive and distract ” – I guess I would have to be there to see/ hear it, but my initial response would be how does anyone know this is even being done to deceive and distract? Couldn’t it just be that the grunter finds it harder to hit a well placed drop shot than he does another shot and so he grunts louder from the increased effort? And what is the distinguishing characteristic between “normal” grunting and grunting so loudly or differently that it can be said it is with the purpose to “deceive and distract” anyway? Who gets to make this judgment and how can anybody be sure this is really what is going on? But more fundamentally, if an opponent does something to telegraph to me that he is hitting a particular shot, then I think I would welcome that advanced warning rather than let it upset or bother me. So, if I notice that an opponent always looks where he is about to hit a serve, or that he makes a particular gesture or movement when he is going to hit a crosscourt shot, or a drop shot, or a lob, now I have something up on him and I am happy, not upset, that he is offering me this “tell”. The same would be true I think if he grunts more loudly or differently when he is about to hit a drop shot. If I know from experience that his making more noise means a drop shot is coming, then this means I can get a head start on running to the net to reach the drop shot instead of hanging back and having to react only after the shot is hit. Again, what am I missing? Why is this bad?

    * “Some yell switch when they are at the net and their partner is at the baseline while their opponent strikes the ball” – I don’t know about you, but I have heard from literally hundreds of different pros over the years (including pretty much every one of the Legends at Tennis Fantasies Camp with George) that a good doubles team is supposed to communicate on a court, even if that means that words are spoken in the middle of a point. If this means that somebody yells out a short “switch,” or “up,” or “back,” or “mine,” or “yours” or some other kind of verbal instruction to one’s partner in the heat of the action, then this is not generally considered a hindrance because there is no intent to distract the opposing team and it is just what one does in a doubles match to communicate with one’s partner. The fact that it happens in the middle of a point is irrelevant because it is the very communication in the middle of a point that is supposed to happen; if you outlaw such communication, then you are essentially robbing doubles of its meaning and purpose. So, if you are suggesting that the new rule is indeed intended to outlaw this kind of behavior, then that exactly illustrates my point that the new rule goes too far and is a very bad idea.

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