If you find the guttural groans of professional tennis players annoying—when I can’t take it anymore I put the TV on mute—you aren’t alone.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Ian Ritchie, head of Wimbledon, admitted that officials too would like to see a cap on player grunting, especially from the ladies, who appear to be the most vocal in their play. According to the article, the wounded lion yowls of Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka recently reached 95 decibels, which if you’re wondering is roughly equivalent to the sound of a lawnmower shredding turf.
But Belarus has nothing on Russia when it comes to squawking women. Tennis ace Maria Sharapova holds the record of being the loudest, with a 105-decibel grunt (think a jackhammer in tennis whites).
Ritchie told the Telegraph that he receives many letters of complaint from spectators of the sport, and he feels it would be “helpful” to reduce the amount of grunting overall. How he plans to do this—may I suggest a roll of duct tape?—remains to be seen. But Ritchie feels the on-court squawking may be the result of an “education problem” among younger players, which may be a very polite way of saying they’re brats who don’t know any better.
Why do so many tennis players let out a diaphragm-busting yawp every time their racket makes contact with the ball? Some experts (see this 2010 article in the Toronto Star) claim “forced exhaling” increases a player’s power. It may also give the shrieky wheel an advantage over an opponent. What better way to shake another player’s concentration than by screaming? It’s an interesting tactic. So is playing well.
What the players fail to take into account, however, is how their wailing affects a spectator’s enjoyment of the sport. And surely, that’s got to mean something. (Please, tell me it means something.) It’s possible the loudest grunters need a field trip as part of their “education.” Why not take them to a concert in which Beyoncé lets out a loud belch every 30 seconds? Or maybe Wimbledon’s maintenance crew could cut the grass during a play, you know, one lawnmower competing with another? Maybe that will bring the message home. At the very least, by annoying both players and spectators it will level the playing field.