The Grunt Stops Here

Maria Sharapova (left) and Victoria Azarenka (right) are two of the loudest women on tour

Grunting is ruining tennis.

Grunting, or shrieking as it is known on the WTA, has grown in volume in recent years. It is not only the decibel level that is rising but the amount of players choosing to make the repulsive noises.

It has gotten so bad that BBC has launched a tool that allows viewers to fade out the sound of grunting. If that’s not a signal for change I’m not sure what is.

People are sick of it. I’m sick and tired of it. I think I even heard Prince William mumbling something along those lines to Kate Middleton.

If only the networks had a say in this. The BBC has been receiving complaints regarding this at a higher rate than angry mother’s writing letters to the FCC. This year’s Wimbledon has finally made grunting an issue worth delving into. It is a problem that has gone unnoticed for too long.

Wimbledon is a beautiful tradition. The pointless noise has made Wimbledon filthy. Tennis, like all professional sports, is not about the players. It is about the fans and bringing them a product they feel is worthy of their 3 hours in front of the television. This is entertainment and grunting is slowly but surely taking away from the potentially high entertainment value that each match brings.

Grunting may sometimes be an uncontrolled reaction. We’ve all experienced it. The grunting displayed in tennis is completely under their control.

Whether it’s Marcos Baghdatis whimpering like a dying bull or, as much as we might enjoy the visual, Maria Sharapova screaming to audition for the next Ron Jeremy flick, the constant noise is largely uncalled for.

As much as the Williams sisters try to prove it, the backhand slice and forehand volley do not necessitate ear-splitting shrieks on any and every occasion.

I don’t need a professional tennis player telling me that grunting helps them hit the ball harder. Or that, hypothesized by one study, it creates a psychological advantage that would seem to compromise the integrity of the game if true.

Roger Federer is as quiet as a mouse out on the court. If one of the best players of all-time can stay quiet, why can’t you?

Women’s tennis is already being compromised enough by the lack of notoriety among the dominating presence of European players with an excessive number of k’s, v’s and z’s in their names as well as the instability of the revolving door of top seeds. They don’t need the casual fan changing the channel to Maury because they at least want some form of entertainment with their screaming.

A person can mute their TV for only so long. If muting the TV means I don’t have to hear another spiel from Pam Shriver about the emotions of the match then I might be okay with it but in the end I want to hear the genuinely intelligent comments coming from John McEnroe. I want to hear the ball hitting the racquet and the crowd roaring.

Each match we see Wimbledon spectators jumping on the bandwagon of the player who shrieks the least. They don’t have the luxury of muting their TV’s.

The men’s game doesn’t face the same problems that the women’s game does simply because their product on the court is so much greater with the abundance of elite talent they have been blessed with in the last decade. It helps that the men don’t grunt as much either. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the men’s side could still use the change.

Thursday’s semi-finals featured two of the loudest females in Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka. Two women who can make a rock concert look like a library and screams that give tween boys across the country a reason to watch tennis.

Tennis has been getting evidence that even the jury of the O.J. trial couldn’t overlook.

It would be fitting to see the grunting’s swan song sung by Maria Sharapova in Saturday’s final.

Tennis has gotten on the slipperiest of slopes by allowing grunting to escalate to a point where it might eventually be out of their control. Grunting is an epidemic in the sport, become more contagious with each week.

Tennis can put a stop to this now though. Penalize players for grunting. They may complain but let them deal with it. They don’t need to do it and the sport doesn’t need it. Unless viewers tuning out from the game of tennis altogether is what the ITF is aiming for.

Letting the issue slide like the slope that tennis is already on can only do harm.

The Hawkeye system that has been introduced could be the greatest thing since sliced bread. It showed that the International Tennis Federation isn’t afraid to implement drastic changes amid mixed feedback.

It’s time to cut out grunting before it becomes an issue too difficult to fix.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

Subscribe to my blog too and you can get the latest posts such as Mark Cuban is Perfect for the Dodgers

About Chris Ross
Questions, comments, suggestions? Send yours to Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack

23 Responses to The Grunt Stops Here

  1. tophatal says:

    So Chris are you saying you don’t like to hear Sharapova grunt ? Given a choice between her and Rosie O’Donnell I’m sure you’d change your mind ! LOL,LOL,LOL !!! To me it’s simply viewed as a precursor to foreplay before sex ! In the women’s singles it’s now anyone’s title given that both Williams sisters are out .

    On the men’s side it looks as if it could well be a Djokovic Nadal finals .

  2. inurbase says:

    I actually don’t mind the grunting in women’s tennis. I’m sure there could be strategy used with it, particular if a player who normally grunts when they hit a shot doesn’t grunt, potentially throwing off the other player’s timing.

  3. schroeds says:

    Hey! Obviously my opinion differs somewhat from yours – you have afterall read my article on it 🙂 I think the issue gets blown out of proportion. Good article nevertheless, I’ll defs be back for more of your tennis stuff.

  4. Ametia says:

    I have NO challenges with grunting. Is it written in the tennis rules and regs that women can’t grunt on the court? Please show me, if this rule has been inked.

    Grunting is a way to express ourselves when we exert energy, just like breathing. It’s primal, women grunt, groan, and moan when they’re in labor too.

    Tips for grunt haters:

    1. Dont’ watch
    2. mute tv, if you do watch
    3. GRUNT along with the ladies!

    • inurbase says:

      I love the idea of grunting along with the players. Classic.

    • mary says:

      Grunts are not too bad. Screaming like a banshee is ridiculous and is making the womens game a laughing stock.

    • Faust says:

      Don’t make this a women/men sexism issue. The men shouldn’t be able to grunt at distractingly loud levels either. They are currently working on the rule, it is being tossed up whether it is a viable “boost” or just a distraction and annoyance to other players.

      Everything is a way of expressing ourselves, it doesn’t make it a good thing, just like physical mutilation. Congratulations your sex can give birth and I will not knock that it is a miracle, but it is hardly argument in a yelling match in tennis.

      Tips for people that agree with grunting:

      1.Don’t play Wimmbleton (They are cracking down on it)
      2.Don’t expect to be taken seriously
      3.Try to play Tennis, practice Tennis, love Tennis (You are a Tennis player not a diva)

  5. sharon says:


    Is correct, the screaming/shrieking is an embarrassment, to the women’s game. They do not shriek when they practice. They are probably hitting the ball, almost, as hard, when they practice. I have watched maria when she strikes the ball; the shriek starts as her racket is just about to strike the ball. So, her shriek is not as a result of striking the ball. She screams just because it has become a habit and habits can be broken.

    Schroeds says that the issue has been blown out of proportion. Not so, whenever you have enough fans, of the game, who are being offended by the actions of a few unprofessional female tennis players, it taints the sport and turn viewers off. The idea should be to find and encourage new tennis fans to follow the sport and make it grow, not turn off the true tennis fan; who is being driven away by these screaming player antics.

  6. Bheise says:

    I’m surprised they actually allow the grunting. I remember seeing an interview on ESPN, i think it was PTI… really wish I could remember who the player was, maybe it was andy roddick… they were talking about why fans aren’t allowed to really cheer or get rowdy at tennis tournaments and he said that they need it to be quiet because you can tell what type of shot or spin the opposing player is putting on the ball based on the type of sound it makes when it bounces off the racket. One would think the excessive grunting and groaning when they swing could be seen as trying to give themselves some sort of advantage and not them just giving a little extra. I mean, why else would they need to grunt on every single shot? Am i actually to believe Sharapova is giving that extra oomph on every shot she hits over the course of like 2 or 3 hours? please. but in all honesty I don’t care one way or the other. i don’t watch tennis at all.

    • mary says:

      Anyone who plays a racket sport knows that you hold your breath just at the point of impact to direct the power into the shot and exhale on the followthrough so the screaming does not put more power into the shot. It’s just to put off the opponent as Andy Roddick says.

  7. edparnell says:

    Personally I think it’s a device to a: get noticed and b: pychologically wrong foot the other player. While there is nothing wrong with using any method (within the rules) to gain advantage, it’s difficult to see any other reason. she’s not that much of a dynamic player (according to people who know about these things) to need to make a ‘release’ sound when she serves. Although I can see how teenage boys may make use of her grunting.

    I don’t watch tennis so what do I know?

    Good article.

  8. Grunting has always been a part of women’s tennis in one form or another. However, I suppose you could say that Monica Seles took grunting to a completely different level and one that we associate with women’s tennis today. Although I’m not a fan of the seemingly “excessive” grunting that has become prevalent on the women’s side of the ball I think it is best to keep two things in mind:

    1-How many fans have actually trained to play tennis competitively and understand the physical exertion that females put their bodies through to hit the ball harder and fastest than their opponents? As some who is married to a woman who played competitively, grunting is a natural reaction to the exertions of hitting a ball. Maybe not for every shot, but depending on the player certainly many types of shots.

    2-What role does technology play in many fans adversity to grunting? Certainly the microphones are better than they were 5, 10, 15 years ago, improving the quality of all the sounds on the court…even the ones fans might not want to hear.

    Bottom line is if you are just tuning in for the majors (or just Wimbledon and the US Open) and don’t care for the grunting then either mute the match or change the channel. If you watch tennis as part of your regular diet and don’t care for the grunting then you have a right to complain.


    • mary says:

      An exhalation of breath is one thing, screaming is quite another. You do not hear golfers screaning when they hit a drive and to hit a ball over 300 yards needs a lot of power! Why the heck should I pay good money to go to a tournament or watch on TV and have to mute the sound?

  9. schroeds says:

    Sharon – and everyone else – I invite you to read my article about grunting so as to understand why I think it has been blown out of proportion.

    Like the points made by sports glutton.

  10. Ametia says:

    Nice blog site, Chris. I left a comment. You keep speaking your own truths. I love how you left room for debate/discussion. You don’t need to have agreement on your ideas. That’s the beauty and freedom with owning your own space to write.

  11. Hi Chris!

    I don’t see a thing wrong with grunting. I don’t understand the fuss!

  12. What Bheise said is true, i think i saw same interview. Many players use sound on court to guess what kind of shot , how hard its hit, or where it might be going when play is extremely fast or they are on the move.
    I don’t watch tennis, unless its a crazy match like the Rodick Feder one a while back that on forever.
    I can see it should be banned, but it is sexy as hell, one thing u can rarely say about women’s sports.
    I do like how tennis is one of the few sports to actually implement new technology into their sport and make it better. Wish other sports would do the same. Tennis, from what I know, has virtually eliminated bad calls by officials. If i’m wrong please tell me.

    Great blog, and I look forward to reading more, and thanks for reading ours. We also do a podcast please check it out if u have a chance.

  13. Nice post Chris, I’d love for you to post more tennis articles. Anyway, I agree that the grunting is a bit over the top, but seriously, what can you do? It’s annoying, but if the ITF bans it, then players will complain, and everybody will be in a huge mess. Sadly, I’m not sure what exactly we can do about it.

  14. Pingback: Five-Day Junior or Adult Loyalty Pass to Riverside Badminton & Tennis Club » Get your daily Groupon deals

  15. Sasha says:

    As far as the US Open, I imagine their First Amendment rights kick in :).

    Annoying and silly as it is, I don’t think there’s much we can do about it. It’s reactive, it may be partially theatrical, but, the grunting is here to stay. It is somewhat sexist. Men don’t do it, women do. I think it invariably takes a sexist dimension (which is not to say you’re sexist, you’re not) simply because of the historical bias against women in sports and the expectations they “be quiet” and meek and not cause any disturbances in whatever it is they do.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this piece, but it’s sort of interesting:

    Back 10 years ago, if I had a dollar for every time Nomar Garciaparra spent 30 seconds adjusting his gloves, his crotch and his glasses when getting ready to hit, I’d be a rich woman. I know there are people that find hockey players spitting on the ice distasteful. Or take the fact the NFL is extremely strict on post-touchdown celebrations. I guess there are a lot of annoying things athletes do, some of it detracting from play, some of it just gratuitous.

    • Chris Ross says:

      Thing is, I want it gone on both sides of the equation. In my article I mention Marco Bagdhatis and his “dying bull” immitation. It’s not a sexist thing. It happens on the mens side but the higher decibel stuff is generally heard on the women’s side. In the link that you put in your comment, it argues that a true fan would want tennis played at the highest level possible and that if grunting helps then we should let it go. I contend that grunting, at the level that many of the pros on tour do it, is highly unnecessary. Grunting has only become a thing because more and more players have started to do it. Moreover, players like Maria Sharapova have increased their shrieking over the years.

      Check this video from the 2004 Wimbledon she won against Serena Williams. Sharapova’s grunting/shreiking, as well as Serena Williams’, is not close to the level that we see it at today:

      Sharapova knows her shrieking is annoying and she continues it because she knows that. It’s not for her game and people are not annoyed because there is a historical bias against women. This has only become a problem in the last 5 years in Tennis and there’s a reason that players didn’t do it in the past. It is NOT natural. It is forced.

      Lastly, watch this Bagdhatis-Monfils video from 2007. Hardly a peep from either of them.

  16. VARIANS says:

    Всегда найдутся спортсменки (и не только в теннисе), которые будут в своей неудачной игре винить соперниц, а также весь остальной мир. Причина всегда найдется: или кто-то издает громкие звуки во время удара по мячу (Шарапова, Азаренко, Уильямс), или “продажные” судьи слишком пристрастны, или погода неподходящая (жара, либо холод, либо “сквозняк”), или во время подачи мяча на трибуне кто-то чихнул etc. (Комментарий: Валентина Колесникова, Наталья Мельниченко, Владимир Ветров, Геннадий Дорошенко.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: