I thought I'd share this here. I totally agree that it affecs the play. If you can't hear the contact, you just don't know what kind of power the shot has.
December 19, 2007
SILENCE please! Former Wimbledon finalist Judy Dalton says the time has come to put an end to a blight on tennis — the grunt.
Dalton, the winner of nine grand slam doubles titles, claims she would have been prepared to forfeit a match against the grunter par excellence, Maria Sharapova — and has urged the current generation of tennis players to do so.
"If that was me and I was playing Sharapova, I would be saying, 'If you continue with that you can have the match, I'll walk off, and I'll lodge a complaint,' "
Dalton told The Age.
"The other girls should say 'Fine, I'll forfeit the match.' "
She nominated the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, as two of the other main grunt offenders. "Will it happen? I don't think so,"
Action against the grunt has been rare. Among the exceptions was the 2003 Wimbledon warm-up event at Birmingham, when Sharapova was warned by officials after her opponent, Nathalie Dechy — and players on an adjacent court — complained about the noise.
At Wimbledon, the London tabloids' famous grunt-o-meter has recorded Sharapova's noise level at 101.2 decibels — the equivalent, apparently, of a police siren at close range or a small aircraft landing nearby.
Former Australian great John Newcombe has previously described it as "cheating".
"It's actually what I consider legalised cheating, because one of your great senses that you have on a tennis court is your ability to hear the ball come off your opponent's strings,"
Newcombe said last year. The player who can't hear the ball is effectively flying blind.
Dalton agrees — "They use it as a tactic so you can't hear the ball" — and laments what she believes is the WTA's unwillingness to deal with the issue for fear of alienating some of the sport's biggest and most influential drawcards.
"I find it exceedingly frustrating that the WTA have not done anything about it," Dalton said. "It seems to me that any time there's any problems with any of 'the stars', that they're just too frightened to say anything to anybody, for fear of their jobs."
Sharapova and others, including the ur-grunter, Monica Seles, have always argued that the noises are involuntary. Under the rules of tennis, the chair umpire must be convinced that they are excessive and intentional. If so, "any continual distraction of regular play, such as grunting, shall be dealt with as follows: for the first offence, a let should be called and the player should be told that any such hindrance thereafter will be ruled deliberate. Any hindrance caused by a player that is ruled deliberate will result in the loss of a point."
Two years ago at Wimbledon, more than a decade after Nathalie Tauziat's sensational complaint against Seles, tournament referee Alan Mills accused quieter players of trying to out-psyche noisy opponents by copying their behaviour.
"Many of the non-grunting players are unhappy about the noise pollution and a kind of counter-grunt culture has emerged in recent years whereby offended parties ape their opponent's noises."
Australian Open referee Wayne McKewen confirmed that a chair umpire would only consider taking action if a complaint was made by an opponent or if it was thought that the grunting was intentional to hinder the other player. In that case, he said, the umpire would speak to the player involved.