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Scott Dunlop: Grunts and Shrieks

Tue, Jan 25, 2011

c. Scott Dunlop

Scott Dunlop: Grunts and Shrieks

A recent joint study by two professors concludes that grunting or shrieking noises made by a hitting player can be distracting and actually impair the opponent’s ability to determine the type of shot being made by the player.

“Maria Sharapova (who grunts at over 100 decibels), may gain an unfair advantage by distracting opponents with grunts. Indeed, there is a growing chorus of critics who complain that many of the top-ranked professional tennis players are cheating when they grunt. This complaint has been voiced not only by the media and fans, but also by the athletes themselves. For instance, Martina Navratilova (former World number 1) recently said that grunting is “…cheating and it’s got to stop” Navratilova’s argument centered around the idea that it is important to hear the ball strike the racket, and that the sound of a grunt can mask or distract attention from this important moment.”

The study provides some evidence that the professional tennis associations might want to consider when deliberating what to do about the too loud shrieking and grunting of some players. Something needs to be done because it’s obvious from comments in the mediaand on blogs and tweets that lots of fans really do not like these noises.

At the end of the day it is the players who are simply too loud that need to be censured. This could be accomplished if the professional tennis associations want to deal with it. A too loud level of noise (decibels) can be set and monitored. If a grunt or shriek is too loud an umpire could rule a let or issue a warning, followed by penalty points. The decision is similar to what  an umpire must make when a player yells or distracts another player before a hit. In fact International Tennis Federation Rule 26 states that purposeful and excessive grunting is a hindrance and reason for a point penalty.

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