Grunting in tennis

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Jimmy Connors
Monica Seles

Grunting in tennis is the very loud noise,[1] sometimes described as "shrieking"[2][3] or "screaming",[4] made by some players while hitting their shots. It is prominent in both men's and women's tennis.

Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors are generally considered to be the "grunt creators" in the women's and men's games respectively.[5][6][failed verification] Examples of contemporary tennis players who notably grunt are Serena Williams, Venus Williams,[7] Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka,[8][9] Aryna Sabalenka,[10] Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer[11][12] and Gustavo Kuerten.[13]

Overview and punishment[edit]

In the 1988 US Open, Ivan Lendl complained about Andre Agassi's grunting: "When Agassi went for a big shot, his grunt was much louder. It threw off my timing".[7] In the 2009 French Open, Aravane Rezaï complained to the umpire about Michelle Larcher de Brito's "shrieking", which led to a Grand Slam supervisor being brought to the court. No action was taken against Larcher de Brito and she was booed off the court.[7] Afterwards former tennis player Martina Navratilova said that grunting was a form of cheating: "The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done". She also cited Roger Federer as an example of a successful player who does not grunt: "Roger Federer doesn't make a noise when he hits the ball—go and listen". The concern was not limited to mere distraction or unpleasantness. In particular, Navratilova was concerned that grunting drowned out the sound of the ball leaving the grunter's racquet and prevented an experienced opponent from using that clue as to force and spin to address his or her reception of the ball and the return stroke.[14] Another former player, Chris Evert, stopped short of labelling it as cheating but said: "I wouldn't go that far [to say it's cheating] but I think the grunts are getting louder and more shrill now with the current players".[9]

Some tennis players have defended grunting. Michelle Larcher de Brito, who had a reported decibel reading of 109, said: "If people don't like my grunting, they can always leave".[6] In a different interview she said: "Nobody can tell me to stop grunting. Tennis is an individual sport and I'm an individual player. If they have to fine me, go ahead, because I'd rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting".[15] Former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova stated, "I've done this ever since I started playing tennis and I'm not going to change".[16] Serena Williams said that opponents grunting does not affect her: "I just play my game and sometimes I grunt and sometimes I don't. I'm not conscious when I'm doing it. I'm just zoned out. It doesn't really affect me if my opponent is [grunting]".[17]

Some players and commentators have noted the connection with pro tennis trainer Nick Bollettieri, who has personally trained the majority of the controversially loud "grunters" including Larcher de Brito, Seles, Sharapova, Agassi, and the Williams sisters, leading to repeated accusations that he has been deliberately teaching grunting as a novel tactic in order to give his latest generation of students an edge in competitive play.[18] Bollettieri has denied teaching grunting as a distraction tactic, and says grunting is natural, "I prefer to use the word 'exhaling'. I think that if you look at other sports, weightlifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way".[16] In 2011, after Danish player Caroline Wozniacki (then world no. 1) publicly accused Bollettieri's students of cheating by grunting, Women's Tennis Association Chairman Stacy Allaster stated that the WTA would be "talking to the Bollettieri academy" about the predominance of loud grunters from that institution and how it could be eliminated from the next generation of players. One year later, a division of Bollettieri's academy released a document calling grunting "unsportsmanlike" and acknowledging that it obscures the sound of string impact (as noted by Navratilova), resulting in "an increase in an opponent's decision error, and a slower response time".[18]

Louise Deeley, a sports psychologist at Roehampton University, believes that grunting is part of the rhythm for tennis players: "The timing of when they actually grunt helps them with the rhythm of how they're hitting and how they're pacing things". She also believes that banning grunting is not the solution: "They may feel, on the surface, that this is going to be a distraction to their game, that it is part and parcel of what they do".[19] Bruce Lynne, a physiologist at University College London, believes that reflexes might have an effect: "If you're looking at reflexes in the legs and you ask someone to clench their jaw, then believe it or not, the reflexes in their legs get brisker, that's a well-known problem called re-enforcement".[19]


  1. ^ Levi, Joshua. "Ken Roswall: today's tennis makes me GRUNT". North Shore Times. Retrieved 2011-06-23.
  2. ^ Bud Collins (2007-07-08). "Shriek cheats, the rebels yell". Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  3. ^ Martin Rogers (2009-05-29). "The 'shriek heard 'round the world' must be muffled". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  4. ^ "Scream queens distract opponents, says Evert". Indian Express. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  5. ^ Megan Lane (2005-06-22). "Why do women tennis stars grunt?". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  6. ^ a b John Jeansonne (2009-06-29). "Grunting in tennis: Gamesmanship or unsportsmanlike?". Newsday. Archived from the original on 2009-07-03. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  7. ^ a b c Barry Flatman (2009-06-14). "One more grunt and you're out: Wimbledon to crack down after complaints". Times Online. London. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  8. ^ Mark Hodgkinson (2009-04-05). "Victoria Azarenka the big noise after beating Serena Williams to win Miami title". Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  9. ^ a b "Evert joins 'grunting' debate". Independent. 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  10. ^ Maasdorp, James (17 January 2018). "Australian Open: Aryna Sabalenka's screams see crowd mock her grunts as Ashleigh Barty advances". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  11. ^ Spiro Zavos (2008-01-23). "Take the grunt out of tennis". The Roar. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  12. ^ Danielle Rossingh (2009-05-29). "First Seles, Now Larcher: Grunts Escalate in Paris". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  13. ^ ESPN and Agência Gazeta Press (2012-10-20). "Com gritos tradicionais, Guga vence Lapentti em jogo de exibição". ESPN Brasil (in Portuguese). Retrieved 2016-09-27.
  14. ^ "Tennis legend Navratilova calls grunters cheats". 2009-06-04. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  15. ^ "Michelle Larcher de Brito refuses to tone down the grunting". 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  16. ^ a b Tom Geoghegan (2009-06-22). "What a racket". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  17. ^ Rachel Heyler Donaldson (2009-06-22). "Tennis coach Nick Bollettieri suggests penalties for 'unnaturally loud' players such as Michelle Larcher de Brito". The First Post. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  18. ^ a b Mark Hodgkinson (2012-01-04). "Special report: Nick Bollettieri's grunting document". The Tennis Space. Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  19. ^ a b Alok Jha (2005-06-23). "Does grunting help tennis players with their game?". Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-09.

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