Less than a week away from the Championships at Wimbledon, the International Tennis Federation is contemplating a crackdown on grunting in the game of tennis.
This clearly does not refer to grunting as much as it does the screaming and shreiking exhibited mostly by the female competitors. If you have watched Sharapova or the Williams sisters play, then you surely know what I am talking about. The current rule says that the player may have to forfeit a point at the umpire's discretion. Under potential new rules, a player may have to forfeit sets or even matches at the decision of the officials.
So is this really necessary? I think it is. I have never understood why players feel the need to scream at the top of their lungs every time they hit a point. It is distracting to the audience, and I can imagine it is distracting to the players facing them. A number of players have come out and complained about it, but until now no such talk of a change has happened. Now I understand that a grunt here and there is a way of exerting energy into the ball and everything, but at this point I think it has become so much of a habit for those players that they might not be able to stop if they try, and that could pose huge problems for them in the future.
My big issue is the fact that tennis is one of the only sports where the crowd is required to sit in silence during the point while the players shreik their lungs out as they hit the ball. If it is really something that helps your performance then why don't we see baseball players or golfers doing the same thing when they swing? I think it just provides a mental lift to the player because they think it is helping them to hit the ball better, and is really unnecessary.
The problem with instituting a rule like this is the fine line that the officials are going to have to draw between grunting and screaming. Rafael Nadal poses an interesting case, as he is one of the players who make sound when they hit the ball. His is more of a moan then a scream, but would that count? And how would they be able to decide what level of penalty to hand down? Are the umpires going to have a decibel meter installed in their chair? Something like that sounds quite ridiculous to me.
These are all the tough decisions that the ITF will have to face when deciding whether to institute a rule like that. We will see in time if this move pays off, but like I said before they are really going to have to be careful and deliberate in their choices regarding the screaming in tennis. No matter what they decide, I still think that something needs to be done.