Australian Open

Tennis has a new grunter!

2018-01-17 07:16
Aryna Sabalenka (AP)

Melbourne - Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are well known for it and now tennis has a new shrieker and grunter, who was so loud at the Australian Open the crowd started imitating her.

Rising Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka's screeching got so grating in her Australian Open clash with local hope Ashleigh Barty late Tuesday that the irritated centre court crowd began mocking the 19-year-old.

It prompted the chair umpire to admonish them, with the irony not lost on spectators, who jeered louder in response.

Twitter also lit up in response with former player Todd Woodbridge joining the critics. 

"Nice player #Sabalenka but something needs to b done about her noise and grunting on court!!!!," he said.

The head of women's tennis in Australia Nicole Pratt agreed it was a problem.

"The player does rely on the sound of the ball coming off the racket," she told local media.

"And probably more the issue is when players grunt or scream for an extended period of time because then that is impeding on your hitting time and hitting space.

"There is a bit of an issue when it does get extended."

But women's governing body, the WTA, disagrees.

"Grunting is a natural part of the game; there is a correlation between breathing, a forceful exhale and power," it said in statement to AFP. 

"Excessive grunting doesn't seem to be an issue that affects players, but we're aware of how some fans react to it.

"It's important that we address their concerns. Excessive grunting is being addressed through a commitment to an ongoing educational outreach."

Grunting has long been a divisive issue in tennis, with Sharapova routinely derided for it.

Britain's famously inventive tabloid press have even utilised a "gruntometer" during Wimbledon to measure the often ear-splitting shrieks of the top players.

It is not just women who can get loud. The likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal can also be prominent vocalists on court.

In Australia, the Herald Sun newspaper began running an online poll Wednesday on whether the grunting had gone too far, and so far 94 percent of respondents said "yes".

Despite the distraction, Barty managed to shut out the noise in her come-from-behind first round win.

She said she knew what to expect, having been warned by her coach.

"He was aware it was coming. A lot of players grunt. A lot of players don't grunt," she said. 

"It's just the way they are, the way they play. For me, it wasn't a distraction. It wasn't anything like that. It was just part and parcel. I knew it was coming."

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