Much to the delight of fans and tennis purists everywhere, the queens of grunting are gone from Wimbledon. No. 8 seed Victoria Azarenka lost in straight sets on Tuesday to Serena Williams, silencing one of the three loudest grunters in the women's draw. Maria Sharpova and Michelle Larcher de Brito were elimnated last week. (Serena Williams is a known grunter, but her cries have never earned the wrath of fans like the others.)
The losses were sure to please tennis fans, many of whom have been anti-grunt since Monica Seles popularized the shrieks of effort nearly 20 years. Since then, grunting has remained popular but has only recently gotten so distracting that a fan backlash has begun.
It's not the first time. In 1992 Seles stifled her noises during the Wimbledon final because of fan reaction. She lost 6-1, 6-2 to Steffi Graf and went back to grunting by the U.S. Open.
This year, Larcher de Brito earned headlines before her matches and alienated Brit tennis fans when she told them that they could "bring their iPods" if they didn't like the sounds she made. Azarenka took a more diplomatic approach and asked fans to respect grunters.
The shrieks of Azarenka and Larcher de Brito are even more annoying than those vuvuzelas played by South Africans at the Confederations Cup, mainly because they can never blend into the background noise. On the tennis court, the squeals (which sound like a mix between a Wilhem Scream and somebody getting a hernia) are always at the forefront, piercing through the silence. It's nearly unbearable to watch on television, let alone have to play against.
Listen for yourself:
That's about as pleasant as ice water getting thrown on your face while having a cavity filled at a Coldplay concert.
Tennis legend Chris Evert agrees. Earlier this week the former Wimbledon champion railed on the grunting of players like Azarenka:
Grunting is one thing but the shrill sound that you hear with players nowadays, and especially they get louder when they hit a winner, that's the thing that I observe as a player.
It is distracting when you are hearing this and I think the grunts are getting louder and more shrill now with the current players.
Steffi Graf hit the ball a ton and she didn't grunt. There were a lot of players, hard-hitting players, and you never heard a peep out of them.
It's an ever-popular stance. Martina Navratilova has been a long-time anti-grunting advocate. And our Martin Rogers wrote in May that if excessive grunting (measured by an on-court decibel meter) led to penalties like a loss of a point or game, the shrieks would stop immediately.
I always thought that the grunting was a necessary evil, even if it seemed that some players were hamming it up for effect at certain points of the match. But after watching Azarenka on Tuesday, I feel like that guy who supported waterboarding right up until he had it done to himself.
The grunting has to go. Thank goodness it's already gone from Wimbledon.
- Steffi Graf
- Serena Williams
- Maria Sharpova