why do tennis players grunt when they hit the ball

We all hear it regularly when weвre watching a tennis match в as a player thwacks the ball into the air, itвs often accompanied by a loud grunting noise. Also heard as a shrieking or screaming noise, itвs a prominent feature of both menвs and womenвs tennis в but why? Monica Seles, former womenвs No. 1 and Jimmy Connors, retired male No. 1, are commonly regarded as the creators of the вartв, with Seles known to reach 90 decibels while playing. Other tennis players known for their grunting include Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and Gustavo Kuerten. Many have called for grunting to be banned or made punishable в Ivan Lendl complained about Andre Agassiвs grunting during the 1988 US Open, saying it threw off his timing. RezaГ complained to the umpire about Michelle Larcher de Britoвs вshriekingв during the 2009 French Open. The reason players are said to grunt is that it helps with the rhythm of how they are hitting the ball, and helps them to hit it harder. Itвs also said to give players confidence, and help them feel in control of their game. Although people have raised concerns that the tactic has been used to put others off their game, tennis players have defended themselves against grunting. Michelle Larcher de Brito commented on her reportedly 109-decibel grunts by saying вIf people donвt like my grunting, they can always leaveв. Similarly, former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova, who has reached 101 decibels, said вIвve done this ever since I started playing tennis and Iвm not going to changeв.


Serena Williams introduced the idea that itвs something tennis players do when theyвre deeply involved in the game, saying вI just play my game and sometimes I grunt and sometimes I donвt. Iвm not conscious when Iвm doing it. Iвm just zoned out. It doesnвt really affect me if my opponent is [grunting]в. More: Pro tennis trainer Nick Bollettieri, who has personally trained many loud вgruntersв such as Agassi, the Williams sisters and Seles, has been accused of teaching grunting as a tactic to give his generation of students a competitive edge. However, he said: вI prefer to use the word вexhalingв. I think that if you look at other sports, weight lifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way. в
MORE: MORE: If you were to listen to the grunting and screaming of a recent professional women s tennis match from the other room, you might not be sure if players like Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams are serving a tennis ball or involved in a cage-fighting match. And you re not the only one who has noticed. This week at Wimbledon, Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, let his distaste for player grunting be known.


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, he. Tennis great Martina Navratilova summed up the problem with grunting in a column last year: It affected my game because to me it is important to hear the ball hit the racket; you can hear a bad shot before you can see it and the sound is an imperative part of the game. Ritchie and the players who make these complaints might have scientists on their side: a recent study has shown that distracting noises during tennis games can affect an opponent s performance. [READ: Scott Sinnett, assistant psychology professor at the University of Hawai i at Manoa, wanted to validate the claims that grunting was indeed distracting enough to affect performance, so he asked 33 undergrad tennis players to view videos of a tennis shot being hit toward them and to quickly judge whether the ball would go to their left or right. After measuring their response and accuracy when only hearing the sound of the ball on the racket, he then introduced an extraneous noise similar to a grunt at the instant the ball was struck. The students response time and accuracy of direction prediction decreased significantly when the sound was included. This is the first study to look at the issue of grunting in tennis. Our current work is also looking at how advanced and professional tennis players perform, to determine if they have developed any strategies to limit the negative effects of a grunting opponent, Sinnett said.


In defense of the grunters, their coaches and trainers claim it helps a player s timing and physiological release of hitting the ball. The timing of when they actually grunt helps them with the rhythm of how they re hitting and how they re pacing things, said Louise Deeley, a sports psychologist at Roehampton University, in an. It may be that their perception is that if they grunt, they are hitting it harder. It s going to give you confidence and a sense of being in control of your game. Others describe it as the normal breathing pattern of an athlete. I prefer to use the word exhaling. I think that if you look at other sports, weightlifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way, said Nick Bollettieri, who has been tennis coach to 10 No. 1 players, speaking to the. If you hold your lips tightly, you re not breathing and you become very tense and less flexible so you get tight more quickly. So like it or hate it, unless Wimbledon s rules take hold, it seems like we re stuck with the grunting. This story was provided by, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Life s Little Mysteries on Twitter @, then join us on. Dan Peterson writes about sports and science at.

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