Tennis players make noises throughout the game due to the physical and mental demands of playing against their opponent. When tennis players grunt or make loud noises, they usually try to refine their concentration, giving them a chance to exhale or increase their level of intensity. Some of the best players throughout tennis history have had the loudest grunt. It has become such an expectation within tennis that tennis fans are rarely alarmed when they hear the sound.
So, is grunting loudly during a tennis match a form of cheating? Does grunting make a tennis player better as they play? Are there any controversies when it comes to grunting, and who are some of the loudest in the game?
Below we will dive more into players’ grunts and their place in tennis.
Is Grunting in Tennis Cheating?
Throughout the years, there have been debates about whether grunting should be considered cheating. Star tennis player Martina Navratilova has gone as far as to go on record and classify it as cheating. She contested that not only do these grunters distract the players, but it prevents their opponent from hearing the tennis ball leave that player’s racquet, which some use to plan out their next move on the tennis court. To make her case why grunting is unnecessary, she brought up Roger Federer, arguably one of the best tennis players in history, as an example of a great player who does not grunt during matches but still competes at a high level.
Although there is no explicit rule banning players from grunting, the WTA has gone as far as to make it clear that if grunting is in excess and distracting, the grunter can lose a point. This new rule from the WTA to address unnecessary grunting is the “Hindrance rule.”
Despite the cheating allegations, there have always been waves of support for grunting. Serena Williams, a loud grunter, has expressed that she is not distracted when other players grunt. Maria Sharapova has emphasized how grunting has been a part of her style of play since she was young and would not give up grunting as she sees it as helpful.
Does Grunting Make a Tennis Player Better?
Grunting, aside from its role in helping a player breathe and concentrate, which of course would make a player’s performance better, grunting has shown to give a slight advantage to a player in regards to their shot velocity, which can increase by as much as 5%. Some players also use it for tracking their rhythm or pace. There are also psychological effects that grunting can have on a player, such as improving their confidence, which is crucial when playing pro tennis.
However, none of these benefits would amount to players coming from being low-ranked players to now being top-level competitors. Still, professional tennis players are always looking for even the slightest advantage.
When Did Grunting Begin in Tennis?
There is no precise date as to which grunting began, but Jimmy Connors and Monica Seles respectively are titled as the first tennis players in their divisions to use grunts during matches. The first recorded complaint regarding grunting occurred in the 1988 Us Open when Ivan Lendi complained about the shrieks from Andre Agassi.
Are There any Grunting Controversies in Tennis?
One of the main controversies is the accusation that tennis coaches have been training their students to perform grunts. Nick Bollettieri is a famous coach who has had this accusation against him after many players he has coached adopted a grunt. It reached a head in 2011 when Caroline Wozniacki, the world’s number one player at the time, again leveled the accusation of cheating against Bollettieri students. The WTA then decided to look into the Bollettieri academy. Their practices prompted them to release a statement on how they felt grunting was unsportsmanlike and could hinder an opponent’s ability to make a decision.
A separate controversy occurred in 2018 with Aryna Sabalenka, who was insulted by the crowd because of her loud grunting, which upset her opponent, Ashleigh Barty, who found it hard to concentrate. It also challenged the umpire, who struggled to control the unruly crowd.
Who are Some of the Noisiest Tennis Players?
Sound is measured through decibels, and the woman’s tennis division has the record for the highest decimal sounds when it comes to grunting. The loudest grunter in tennis belongs to Michelle Larcher de Brito. During the 2009 French Open match, a grand slam tournament supervisor had to come onto the court to discuss a noise complaint. She recorded a decibel rating of 109.
Another loud tennis grunting is Maria Sharapova, who recorded at 103 decimals. The remaining three within the top five loudest grunters in order goes Monica sales, Serena Williams, and then Venus Williams.
Conclusion: Why Do Tennis Players Grunt?
Not everyone has a problem with grunting as a part of the competition in tennis. Adrenaline is flowing, passion is high, and everyone wants to win. Showing intensity is not the problem; tennis legends like Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal grunt; problems arise with loud grunting.
Both tennis divisions have not outlawed grunting, but both have taken steps to keep the noise to a minimum. Women’s tennis, who typically get the brunt of the complaints about grunting, has taken steps to address this issue. For example, umpires have devices that can track noise levels of grunting during a match. Grunting will remain a part of the sport, but the goal is to eliminate the loud grunting.