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 cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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