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.

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Milos Raonic — The Next Great One?

Milos Raonic became the first Canadian to win an ATP event since 1995 on Sunday

Riddle me this. What’s 6 foot 5, 20 years old, and can serve a tennis ball 147 miles per hour?

You’re telling me that you don’t know. I guess I can tell you then. It’s Milos Raonic. Milos who?

In less than a month Milos Raonic has shot up the ATP rankings all the way up to 59th after becoming the first Canadian since 1995 to win an ATP tour event today. He knocked off Fernando Verdasco 7-6, 7-6 in a match where there was not one break of serve. Don’t let that stat fool you though, this man ain’t your run of the mill big boy server.

This may have been Raonic’s first tour victory, but this all started with his run at the Australian Open where he reached 4th round of the Australian Open losing out to the Spaniard David Ferrer. Despite the defeat, even the brightest mind in tennis took notice as John McEnroe tweeted that Raonic is “the real deal.”

Born in the former Yugoslavia and raised in Thornhill, Ontario, is it possible that Canada’s first true relevant tennis player could be the next great player as well?

He may be 5 inches taller, but with constant comparisons to Pistol Pete Sampras and high praise from respected people around the tennis world it definitely isn’t out of the question to see Raonic at the top of the sport in a few years.

Milos Raonic has been compared to the great Pete Sampras

As you probably gathered from the opening riddle, Raonic serves like no one else on tour. He may not be the true definition of a serve and volley player like Sampras was, but his net game is still very polished. He likes to come to net and once he’s up there it is no easy task for his opponent to hit a passing shot around his 6 foot 5 frame.

However, his ground game too often resembles that of John Isner’s as he is unable to hang in extended rally’s much of the time. There are a couple of positives though when it comes to his ground strokes. First off, he hits the ball with a lot of force when he gets it right and is able to hit the power winner’s that you need for those all important cheap points (other than the ones he gets off his serve).

I think though that the most significant aspect of his repertoire is that he is just 20 years of age. He has lots of time to improve his ground strokes, which will allow him to at least be able to compete in rallies with the best in the business.

How about another riddle then. What separates the guys like Nadal and Federer from the rest of the pack?

It’s not their incredible collection of abilities if that’s what you were thinking. Give up, again? It’s the quality that you can’t teach anyone, clutch play. Just give Greg Norman a call, he can confirm that for you.

Milos Raonic has shown some of that Jordan-esque capability of coming up big when you need it most. Well, maybe not quite Jordan-esque but you get where I’m coming from.

It was apparent that Raonic was unphased by the grand stage of the Australian Open and simply lost to a better David Ferrer who has arguably the best return of serve on tour. He gave further proof of his clutch play last night when he staved off 4 set points in the first set tie-breaker versus Fernando Verdasco. Was Raonic that clutch or was Verdasco that choke? Probably a combination of the two, but to have the mental toughness to come back from down 6-2 in your first ever ATP Final is something special from such a young man.

Moreover, his serve and volley type of game should force opponents to rethink their strategy in this rally-dominated era of tennis.

I’m going to wimp out here a bit and say that I have absolutely no idea if this guy IS in fact the next one. He is an undeniable top 10 player and from the looks of it that ranking shouldn’t be too far. However, the jump from top 10 to best in the one world is a massive one and right now I think we’re going to have to let Mr. Raonic thaw for some time before making any snap judgements.

Can’t get enough tennis? Check out my most recent tennis post about Roger Federer’s reign as the King of Tennis.

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