The Grunt – Does It Really Help Tennis Players?

Making a racket during sports is usually something reserved for the likes of full contact events like hockey, rugby or American football.  However, over the last few decades, it seems to have found a weird home in the rather surprising sport of tennis. Although tennis has always been a fairly intense sport, the need for “grunting” or “exhaling” as many players prefer it to be called has been a controversial subject since the 1988 US Open, when Czech player Ivan Lendl complained about his opponent, the infamous Andre Agassi’s grunting: “When Agassi went for a big shot, his grunt was much louder. It threw off my timing”.

Opinions are generally split on the matter, with Czech pro Martina Navratilova blasting the technique, stating that grunting is “cheating, pure and simple” and should be banned. However, Russian star Maria Sharapova is known for her screams often surpassing 100 decibels during games (around the same volume as a motorcycle), with many fans attributing her success to the technique. Superstar sisters Venus and Serena Williams are known widely for their deep, aggressive grunt during matches. Younger sister Serena stated the noise doesn’t bother her:

“I just play my game and sometimes I grunt and sometimes I don’t. I’m not conscious when I’m doing it. I’m just zoned out. It doesn’t really affect me if my opponent is [grunting]”.

In a rather comical twist, albeit fairly serious, the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) is looking to implement a decibel meter into matches, along with a set of clearly defined acceptable noise levels. This is not just for the top level, but designed to be implemented and taught in tennis academies at a junior level so players can train and grow, fully understanding what the acoustic limitations are.

Many fans complain regularly about the noise, saying that it is distracting, annoying, and sometimes even uncomfortable on the ears. For reference, here are a few examples of the loudest noise makers in the game, and just how loud that really is.

Player Decibels As Loud As A
Serena Williams 88.9 Vacuum Cleaner
Monica Seles 93.2  Lawnmower
Maria Sharapova 101  Motorbike
Victoria Azarenka 105 Power Drill
Michelle Larcher de Brito 109 Lion

 

Fans of the strange technique are convinced it improves your game dramatically, with both physical and psychological effects. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine’s National Institute of Health, in which five male and five female college tennis players were asked to hit both forehand and backhand shots whilst audibly exerting, and then whilst not. Each session consisted of five 2-minute periods with a 60 second break. The study showed that heart rate and oxygen consumption for both hitting conditions weren’t particularly different. However ball velocity/speed was, as when players did make a noise, they hit the ball almost 4 percent harder. As it turned out, this allowed players to increase velocity without having to work any harder.

Article courtesy of Discount Supplements Online