Grunting Gone Wild

serena fistAdmittedly, I grunt on my service motion and some groundstrokes; but the sounds the pros make have gone well beyond what should be allowed.

Male vs. Female

While the female “shriek” can be the most annoying (think of Azarenka vs. Sharapova), the men are not totally innocent of this tennis crime. Check out this short YouTube video where Gonzalo Lama’s grunts apparently were too much for Robin Haase, who lost the point after the umpire ruled that his loud, sarcastic grunt was against the rules.

I had yesterday’s Wimbledon’s Ladies Finals on mute (primarily because I don’t like how Serena acts on the court). One of her “habits” is to grunt during a long rally and then give a loud shriek when she thinks she is hitting the final put-away shot. In my opinion, this is not biological; but is psychological.

Enforce The Rules

I remember back about five or six years ago, the WTA said incredibly they didn’t think they could change the behavior of current female pro players on grunting! So they were going to start enforcing anti-grunting rules in the juniors to break the behavior before it became habit. If they did, it didn’t work.

All the referees have to do is enforce the current rules about excessive noise being a “hindrance” and the behavior will stop. Simple as that.

Your thoughts?

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13 thoughts on “Grunting Gone Wild

  1. I agree with you, George. The grunting (and shrieking) has become intolerable to watch.
    In the same way that there are instruments to check line calls, there is an instrument to measure decibels of sound. If the grunting goes above a pre-determined level, then a point should be deducted. That will quickly put an end to this annoying practice.

    Michael, great idea! thanks, george

  2. Didn’t you mention before that Serena does NOT grunt or scream when she plays against Venus?? The implications of that are significant.

    Dave, YUP. george

  3. It appears to me that there are two types of grunts/shrieks/screams involved. The first is expelling of air in conjunction with hitting the ball and I believe does promote more power/energy. The second is the concluding shot or even well after is an in your face deliberate intimidation gamesmanship act. It is the latter type I believe needs to be eliminated from the game.

    Jeff, i agree totally. when i was a teenaged weightlifter, i was taught to expel the air in my lungs as i lifted. thanks, george

  4. I, too, turn the sound down when Azarenka and Sharapova playing each other or anyone else. It is my belief that the shriek, no matter whether it takes place an instant prior to the player’s impact with the ball, during the impact or even an instant after impact, it interferes with hearing or focusing on the sound the ball makes when hitting the racquet. It is that sound which can often indicate a mis-hit, a solid hit, a brush up the ball to impart backspin or topspin, etc. The shriek or even an audible and extended grunt, groan or gutteral expelling of breath loud enough to entirely — or even partially mask the sound of the ball off the racquet should be defined and punished as a hindrance. It can be just as distracting as the player who jumps around waving his/her hands. The code should be clear about this infraction and the refs should enforce the punishment. And that’s from a guy who is not a strict “law and order” person in any other realm of life.

    Bernie, good point about the sound of the hit. thanks, george

  5. Even in fitness centers there will be signs asking that people to not high decibel grunt during weight training. I stopped watching women’s tennis due to the ear piercing shrieking. The men are starting to be as bad. Yet they expect the audience to be mute during points.

    Elaine, right! Maybe we all should grunt right along with them! thanks, george

  6. Was Jimmy Connors the first “grunter”?
    The Sharapova “Ooooooh” that seems to last for ever is definitely a gamesmanship ploy. I am told she does not do it in practice.

    Andy, and as Dave Spilseth reminded me, i reported that Serena doesnt do it vs Venus. george

  7. I know I am in the minority in this but the grunting doesn’t bother me in the least. Personally I probably am below average on grunting but first I usually don’t really notice it and second when I do it makes me feel the intensity more. (almost but not quite like monster trucks 🙂
    Randy Beerman

    Randy, i think you are definitely in the minority! thanks, george

  8. So, I heard this story long ago and this post reminded me of it. Way back in the 1980s, a friend used to play a lot of tennis with a fellow who had Tourette’s Syndrome. I never met the Tourette’s player myself, but reportedly he would shout out what sounded like “sonmabitch” every time he struck the ball. My friend said he had played with the fellow long enough that it didn’t bother him, but whenever he paired with his friend in doubles, opposing players would call a hindrance on his partner repeatedly during a match. However, when they were told it was an involuntary thing and he could not control himself, most rescinded the hindrance call and just played out the match without further complaint…………..

    Ok, so I made the whole thing up. But not without purpose. Because, specifically, I think that most players WOULD be sympathetic to a person having an uncontrollable disease like Tourette’s who could not help himself but to make noises or say things on the court that might otherwise be a distraction. Most opponents, once having been told of the reason for the noises, would just accept the fact that the person making the noise has a handicap — kind of like playing against a person with only one arm — and leave it at that without trying to claim a hindrance. If not, the opponents would come across as callous, unsympathetic and rude, and there are not a lot of people who would want to be seen that way.

    Assuming that my supposition about how most people would react to a Tourette’s player is true, can someone explain to me what the big deal is about claiming a hindrance when a player grunts on the court out of habit or merely because they were taught to exhale when striking the ball? Yes, one is a disease and the other is a habit, but neither situation can reasonably be said to occur intentionally or with a design ACTUALLY to hinder an opponent’s play. And if an opponent can “make an exception” for a person with a disease, why can’t they get used to someone who merely grunts out of habit?

    I have said this before, but I really do think we have enough rules, in tennis as well as in life, not to keep adding new restrictions on to what people can and cannot do. Come to think of it, maybe we should outlaw underhanded serving as a next step. After all, it is highly distracting to be way past the baseline to receive serve, expecting a deep overhand serve, only to be surprised by an underhanded drop shot serve that is essentially unplayable. If there ever was a hindrance, surely THAT would be one, wouldn’t it?

    Marty, the grunting “habit,” like most habits can be changed if the person wants to. george

  9. Also, lest I be misinterpreted, I am NOT saying that a hindrance may not be called when there is other empirical evidence to show that a grunt or a shout may truly be intentional. Two examples cited by people above would, in my judgment, fall into the intentional category: (1) Where a player never grunts in practice or, in the case of Serena and Venus, does not grunt when playing each other; and (2) Where there is a significant time delay between the time of the hit and the grunt or shout such that it cannot be reasonable be said to be part of an exhale when hitting. I would agree that there probably would be enough evidence to call a hindrance in either situation. What I am riled about, specifically, is trying to enforce the rule against somebody who merely grunts as an integral part of the exhale process when hitting a shot — kind of like what George explains he does when he hits a serve, or what I do on literally every shot that I hit.

    Marty, i grant exceptions to both you and me! thanks, george

  10. I think many of you have played against the extreme grunter and circus act in our circuit……when you grunt and yell to merely distract then the word unsportsmanlike conduct comes to mind. Right Mr Hammel??

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