The sound of grunting is common in women's tennis
The WTA is tackling the problem with coaching and is considering further steps
A device which measures on-court noise could be introduced in the future
World No. 1 Maria Sharapova is famous for her loud shrieks during matches
It’s something the world’s two leading female tennis players have in common, and it’s not the grand slam titles both Wimbledon top seed Maria Sharapova and No. 2 Victoria Azarenka have to their names.
Both stars have earned reputations as grunters, with Sharapova’s screams puncturing the usual calm of London’s All England Club on day one of the annual grass-court grand slam.
But tennis’ rule makers have set in motion a chain of actions which could make baseline bellows a thing of the past, including the introduction of a device to monitor on-court noise levels and possible steps to sanction excessive shouts.
“The WTA, ITF, and grand slams aim to drive excessive grunting out of the game, while ensuring that we do not drive our current generation of players – who were taught to play this way – out of the game,” read a WTA statement.
“This is a start of a sport-wide plan responsibly dealing with the issue through player education and objective rule changes.”
While the body which governs women’s tennis is eager to eradicate unnecessary shrieks, the organization is also cautious of negatively impacting current stars whose games have developed in a certain manner.
“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” WTA CEO Stacey Allaster told USA Today.
“What is clear from experts is that it would have a clear, damaging effect on performance of the existing generation.
“It’s going to take some time. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves because it’s a collective effort of the sport and we need everyone to buy in.”
Allaster said significant research needs to be conducted before any rule on noise could be formally introduced, and she stopped short of describing the device, which is still in development, as a “grunt-o-meter.”
“The bottom line is that we want to bring forward across all levels of competition an objective rule through use of technology to make it much easier for athletes and chair umpires,” she said.
“What is too loud? What is too long? We need to give the official an objective measurement tool.
“Can you imagine on a critical point an umpire going, ‘Oh, I thought you were too loud.’ You have to take all of that out of the equation. It’s not fair to athletes, the chair or the sport.”