June 22, 2011
The head of Wimbledon told a London newspaper that grunting is spoiling tennis.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Club, said that he and other officials would "prefer to see less" of the shrieks that have been a major part of the game, particularly on the women's side, for the past 20 years. The comments were made the same day the grunts of No. 3 seed Victoria Azarenka's were measured at 95 decibels and lasted as long as 1.5 seconds.
"The players have an ability to complain about it, if one player is grunting too much and the other player doesn't like it and it is distracting, they can complain to the umpire," Ritchie said. "We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting."
He blamed the prevalence of grunting on "an education problem" among younger players.
They're great comments with which most fans would agree. The only problem is that Ritchie didn't suggest a way to solve the problem. Are grunters like Azarenka and Maria Sharapova supposed to stay silent? If not, how loud can they be? Who is enforcing the rules? Would they get warnings, point penalties or muzzles? It's not like Ritchie is the first person to complain about grunting. He's important enough where his opinion matters but if there's no plan to cease the behavior then it's all lip service. It's like a politician saying we're too dependent on oil without suggesting how he intends to ween ourselves of off it.
Former British No. 1 John Lloyd agrees. He reacted to the comments on BBC Radio:
"What are they going to have, a grunt meter? I don't really know how they're going to [solve the problem]. I can't stand it, it's terrible. Some of it's so over the top. I wouldn't mind if they all did it in practice as much but they don't. I've watched them and they don't. It's a habit. How are they going to police it? I don't see how they can. It's happened now and I think we're stuck with it, to be honest. I don't see any way around it."
This is a lot like pitchers and batters taking their time between pitches in baseball. It's a blight on the sport, nobody likes it and it's universally agreed that something needs to change. Only everybody is afraid to do this because "this is the way it's always been."
That's a load of [word obscured by Azarenka grunt]. Things don't change unless somebody takes a stand. Though policing grunting would be tricky, there are still plenty of ways to do it, the easiest to put enforcement in the hands of the umpire on a graduated warning/point penalty/default system.
Until such a rule exists, go get some earplugs and stop complaining.