After years of listening to the guttural cries of the world’s top ranked tennis players reach incredibly loud heights, the governing bodies of the sport have had enough. A new plan calls for educational campaigns in youth programs to teach kids not to scream when they play, as well as the use of a “Hawk-Eye for noise” that will measure players’ on-court grunting.
In a meeting that took place last month featuring representatives from the four major tournaments, the International Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association players’ council, it was clear that everyone felt the same way: screaming has got to go. And though it can be argued that both men and women do their fair share of grunting, the women’s side has always taken the brunt of the criticism.
Here are the steps that all the parties agreed would need to be taken going forward:
• The development of a handheld device for umpires to objectively measure on-court grunting levels (though WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said she wouldn’t call it a “grunt-o-meter” per se).
• A new rule setting acceptable and non-acceptable noise levels based on acoustical data gathering and analysis.
• Education at large tennis academies, national development programs and at all levels of junior and lower-tier professional events.
It is apparently too late to save the tennis players of this generation — grunting is too much in their nature (and too helpful in concealing the sound of the ball hitting the racket) to penalize them for it now. So we look to the future and hope the next generation won’t feel the need to expel air loudly every time they unleash a forehand.
The question some are asking is: Is this a sexist reaction meant to single out women, or do tennis players need to just, like, shut up?
Here’s a video from a 2010 tournament match between Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki. Azarenka is channeling her inner Casper on these points, but both sides unleash screams that would make anybody who values their eardrums stop watching (via Business Insider):
If you watched that and, like former tennis great Martina Navratilova (who called the women players “louder and more abrasive”), found the grunting to be an unnecessary part of the players’ game, then you’re probably happy that these steps are being taken. Whether players like Azarenka (who said “Good luck with that” when asked about implementing the plan) and Maria Sharapova agree with you remains to be seen.