More Bark Than Slice
The unmistakable metal ‘ka-khuck’ and subsequent fizz of an ice cold tinny being cracked open.
The sizzle of entrail-laden snags hopping around on the barbeque.
The competitive squawk from a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip.
The baritone knock of willow punishing leather the only way it knows how.
And wafer-slim, attractive, scantily clad Eastern European women wailing like banshees.
These are the sounds of summer and that last one is enough to put me off women’s tennis for life. Although I do not actively follow any women’s sports, I have a genuine appreciation for the talents and respect their place within the sporting domain. But when it comes to their tennis stars, do my ears really have to put up with all that shrieking?
One cannot discuss this noisy aspect of women’s tennis without some kind of shout out to the Queen of Shriek, Monica Seles. She paved the way for the Williams sisters, Sharapova and the host of other decibelly enhanced women on the tour. Many believe that crazy Gunter Parche took to Seles with some kitchen equipment because he was an obsessed fan of Steffi Graf. I propose that he’d just grown very tired of Seles’ constant vocal commotion.
But Seles’ mantle has long been passed over, and the woman now at the forefront of ruining tennis for the viewing public is Michelle Larcher de Brito. Have you heard this woman? Each shot is followed by a prolonged wail that would not be out of place on the set of Boogie nights. The failure to stamp out Gruntgate with Seles has led to an escalation where someone like de Brito can have the clear advantage of distracting her opponent whilst making women’s tennis an absolute earsoar for the rest of us.
Interesting that this is tolerated in a sport where there’s enough ‘shushing’ to appease a librarian, flash photography is the devil and the Umpire’s mantra is ‘quiet please’.
A friend of mine questioned the difference between this highly annoying habit of many of the top players and the controversial ruling against Serena Williams in last year’s US Open final, where her premature celebration resulted in a crucial point being awarded to Sam Stosur. As we all know, Williams became engaged in a very open spat with the umpire and did a pretty good job at (further) disgracing her reputation on the international stage.
The general line of thought is that Williams had control over her celebratory outburst where those that grunt do not. It’s involuntary, they cry – like breathing. If they banned the grunters tomorrow and they no longer had the hefty tennis cheques rolling in, I wonder if these girls would all of a sudden discover a way to hold their breath.
But even if we do concede that these horrible shrieks are, in fact, subconscious. Does that really even matter? Since when is that an excuse in sport? The whistle had blown but the ball was there and out of habit alone, I kicked it – yellow card. The ball hit my bat but was about to crash into the stumps, so I reactionally knocked it away with my hand – you’re out. But this exception is made in tennis to the detriment of non grunting opponents and fans alike.
Given, grunting in tennis is not confined to those playing in skirts. After all, Jimmy Connor was one of the all-time greats… and he could play some tennis too. But it would take a brave, or possibly deaf, person to argue that there is no difference in terms of irritability between a male and female grunt that accompanies a winner down the line.
The more I think about, the less right these ladies have to carry on like their breaking a stack of house tiles at karate class every time they hit the ball. It’s about time Mr Miyagi had a word and we stamped this out for good.
There is no doubt if the tennis hierarchy took a tougher stance on this, the tennis world would be a better off for it and if these women are so intent on making a racquet, we can only hope that it’s one they can hit a forehand with.