Grunting in Tennis: A History of Screaming on the Court

A female tennis playing hitting a ball
“ARRRRGHHHHHH!!!”

The sport of tennis involves hitting a ball with a racket to score points. That and screaming quite hysterically like a lunatic. Let us explore this phenomenon.

What is the tennis player grunt?

It’s a grunt (or scream) of exertion that individuals use to either put maximum effort into their movement, or to distract other players (and/or viewers).

Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors began the trend. Although, we must say, screaming in tennis is now largely associated with female players.

Former Russian player Maria Sharapova is particularly notorious for this. Behold.

Not all tennis players indulge in the activity, which has led to some controversy. There are accusations the grunting players are trying to distract their opponent.

Why is grunting in tennis a problem?

At its worst, it makes the sport look a bit stupid and detracts from the action. And it usually annoys the hell out of fans. Plus, the whole “cheating” potential behind it.

The likes of Martina Hingis, for example, (our favourite when we were younger) never did that. Neither do many other modern stars.

But plenty still do. At ear-piercing volume—men and women.

Tennis is incredibly physical as a sport and requires a tremendous amount of skill. The very best players are really on a different planet with their abilities.

But is the grunting and screaming really necessary? The players who use it say it adds to their game. But debate still rages on.

In 2018, 19 year old Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka reignited the debate with her roaring. It got so bad the crowed in Melbourne began mocking her mid-game.

Another issue is just how loud these grunts are. Often going over 100 decibels (dB), so many other players often complain about the noise.

The first complaint was in 1988 from Ivan Lendi about Andre Agassi. It’s been pretty relentless ever since then.

But definitely seems to have picked up in recent years, where players look to add anything to their game to get an advantage (not heard of PEDs, guys!?).

These days, a match umpire has the (ARRRGHH!!! Sorry, did we put you off reading?) power to punish players for annoying grunts.

So a punishment system may be an option for tennis. As we like the sport and follow it occasionally.

But watching some of the matches is like listening to someone garrotte themselves.

Does grunting in tennis help players?

The Guardian noted in What can science tell us about grunting in tennis?

"When the impact of a grunt is investigated, there is evidence that hitting performance is enhanced. Skilled university tennis players were found to hit with a 3.8% increase in groundstroke hitting velocity when they grunted.

For a serve, a 4.9% enhancement in velocity was found among players who grunted. This translated to “grunted serves” being hit 7kph faster than those that were not."

Well, whatever. All seems rather odd. Although if it is a general help, we may take up grunting when typing.

Perhaps then it’ll make our ideas more moronic and our writing ever better. Indeed.

10 comments

  1. There is actually a rule called the “hinderance rule” that says grunting is distracting and there’s the potential to dock a player a point for doing it..! The debate continues 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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