[container] Not long ago a nine-year-old Australian girl, Lauryn Edwards, was banned by her club near Melbourne for the noise she made while hitting the ball.
“They told me I had to guarantee she won’t grunt,” her dad said. “What do they want me to do? Put Band-Aids over her mouth?”
Lauryn’s favourite player was – surprise, surprise – Maria Sharapova, the player labelled by legendary scribe Bud Collins as the “Belle of the Decibels.”
Sharapova has amplified both the grunting decibels and the controversy, for besides being a tennis superstar she is one of sport’s most photographed women. That has added to gender issues: some men roar like rutting stags without attracting nearly so much attention. [/container]
Less grunting in the female game? Yes… it’s happening
Women’s tennis is become, of a sudden, suddenly, less stentorian.
Which is just my alliterative way of saying that Maria Sharapova is thankfully becoming one of the last holdovers to an era in women’s tennis. We shall call that era the Decibel Epoch in the age of Grand Slamma’ Jamma’.
If you are a tennis fan and have been following the game for a wee bit you will of course be aware of the rise in rage that arose way back in the 1980s and 1990s. The phenomenon – for all who might be calling me on my calling out of women’s tennis alone – actually started on the men’s side. Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassiz and to a point the guru Johnny McEnroe all gave voice to their strokes and the bubbly aphorisms soon became entrenched into the lexicon of the game.
Club players soon began copying the I’ll huff and puff strategy and that filtered down to the juniors and then right into the proving grounds of upper echelon tennis academies.
It became an if you can’t beat em join em badoink a doink. Every tennis court in North America, and then the world, resounded with the sheer will of the grunted smash, volley and oh yay even the drop shot. There were low grunts, squealed grunts, screams, roars, unfettered alors and jungle juked squelched outbursts galore!
I added it to my own club tennis repertoire in the 80s and I can channel it today.
Now a sudden silence has ripped the fresh air of our once densely-decibeled macadam, grass and clay arenas.
I noticed it during the semi final match up between Canada’s own Mashing Montrealer Eugenie Bouchard and Sharapova.
It took a while, but it suddenly hit me that there was nary a sound emanating from one end of the court. Bouchard’s strokes were strangely and eerily silent. One could hear the pinging pop of the ball off the strings.
I am watching the final today with Sharapova once again responsible for all of the extraneous noise. Simona Halek, like Bouchard, is audible on the court only when the ball pops into the strings of her racquet.
Why the new silence from the younger players? In Eaton’s article, quoted above, he asks one of the greats in the women’s game, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert’s longtime opponent has some specific thoughts on what grunting is and what it does.
[blockquote cite=”iTennis, Eaton” type=”left, center, right”]Last year the International Tennis Federation considered dealing with this issue explicitly in its code of conduct, but didn’t. Martina Navratilova insists it should.
“Grunting is cheating, pure and simple – it is time for something to be done,” Navratilova said, reminding us that it hides the sound of racket on ball, making it impossible to decipher spin and power. “Actually it is already banned according to the rules,” the legend added. “It’s called hindrance. Unfortunately most umpires don’t apply the rule, even when players grunt and scream like they were giving birth.
Some critics conclude that tennis’ decision-making processes, so often stymied by having three separate governing bodies, added to a reluctance to confront vested interests, have again appeared too paralysed to act.
Certainly Ruzici was never stopped. Nor was Seles. “Because Monica is such a lovely girl, we didn’t want to rub it in too much,” Evert admitted.
Sharapova was asked to tone it down by Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) World Tour supervisor Donna Kelso but before long was gasping like a drowning gorilla again.
Similarly with Larcher Brito, umpire Mohammed el-Jennati issued her with an unofficial warning, a Grand Slam supervisor came to her court, and no further action was taken.
Occasional the only resort seems to be laughter. A tongue-in-cheek website called Save the Grunt claims a lion roars at 110 decibels, Sharapova shrieks at 101, Seles gasped at 93.2, and an assortment of noises came from Serena Williams at 88.9, Lindsay Davenport 88, Venus Williams 85 and Azarenka 83.5. All are louder than a motorcycle or a lawn mower.”[/blockquote]
Sharapova has just won her fifth Grand Slam with a three set duel against Simona Halep.
Why are the younger players becoming silent and eschewing the mighty exhale? Perhaps because there is a reasonable fear among coaches and academies that players will begin to be sanctioned.
And perhaps, with the success of Bouchard and Halep we are coming to realize that childbirth and jet plane takeoffs need not accompany a sunny day at Wimbledon.
@terrancegavan on Twitter.
[share title=”Title” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]