Women ‘Silenced’ on the Tennis Courts [by Josh]

maria shap1The Wimbledon 2009 Tennis Tournament finishes this weekend in the suburbs of London. All four top seeds from the women side of the tournament have advanced and have made it to the semi-finals.

With players Venus and Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, the finals should be extremely competitive. However, some tennis fans are not nearly as excited for these finals due to the noises these females players make while playing the game.

Many players in tennis make a noise when they attempt to hit the ball with their racket. For men this is often a grunt, while for women it is typically higher pitched and described by some as a shriek (including former women’s tennis legend Chris Everett). Chris Everett is not alone in her disapproval about women players’ audible noise. Martina Navratilova who won 18 grand slams has been quoted, “Roger Federer doesn’t make a noise when he hits the ball – go and listen. The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done.”

Both tennis greats clearly disagree with these new player produced game sounds, however, neither of these players grew up with the training current players received.

Starting in the early 90s young players were encouraged to make a sound when they struck the tennis ball. This was to develop more consistency in their timing and their swing. It is important to note that this criticism has been mostly reserved for female players, despite the fact that male players also do make audible noises in the same manner. Here is a link to a video displaying the noise Maria Sharapova (one of the major “cheaters”), De Brito, and others make while striking the tennis ball.

The International Tennis Federation who is the main body which governs the sport of tennis does not have any specific rules addressing this issue. However, they do provide a brief section on hindrance which is provided below:

HINDRANCE
If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player’s own control (not including a permanent fixture).

Are these female athletes cheating? Are they hindering their opponents by making these noises? Is it right that male players are not receiving criticism?

While the noise may over-represent the physical exertion the players put forth, they do posses the right to make these sounds on the court. The sound does not break any rules because the noise is not intentional. The sound is a part of their game and has been ingrained into their playing style since they began training.

Furthermore, the players are only creating noise when they strike the ball, not when they’re opponent strikes. If officials want to rule the noise as unintentional, then the matches may last even longer then they currently do. I believe that many of this criticism is to encourage women players to appear in a more traditional “lady-like” role by making less noise.

This noise will not deter me from the women’s finals at Wimbledon this weekend.

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Comments

  1. I don’t think Tennis officials want them to appear more ‘lady-like’, players should be afforded silence when they play a point.

    It is distracting when the ball comes back at you at 100mph!

  2. “I believe that many of this criticism is to encourage women players to appear in a more traditional “lady-like” role by making less noise.”
    Yeah… that’s what I think too.

    It’s not cheating. It’d be cheating if they “shriek”ed or grunted when their opponent was swinging to hit the ball.

    The current tennis players must CERTAINLY be used to the noise since many players have been encouraged to make the noise since the early 90’s.

    If certain spectators don’t like the noise… then they shouldn’t go to the game!
    If you’re at home watching the game on your TV & the noise bugs you… there’s this neat little button on your remote control called “MUTE”, try it.

    -Heidi

  3. Pat Rickman says:

    I agree with Josh and Heidi. Professional tennis players should have enough concentration to ignore the sound of their opponent, especially since it is only done as he or she hits the ball.
    “Noise” with movement is definitely part of Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts, and many other sports.
    I know it is not the same since it is crowd noise and not opponent noise, but I still think of the great concentration of the professional basketball player at the free throw line. Could their be more noise and or waving of hands and other objects to distract the shooter. This huge distraction seldom works because of the concentration of the professional player.
    Now, I am not advocating the same crowd behavior in tennis or golf, but I personally have never understood the demand for so much “quiet” in tennis and golf. I do not believe people should purposely yell out when the golfer is hitting or the tennis player is serving, but maybe tennis and golf players should work more on concentration skills and quit complaining so much about the “normal” noises.”
    Also, tennis is well past the years of “gentlemen and ladies”. There are still some fine individuals playing the game who are good sports, but the game has changed immensely.

  4. I agree with the previous posts that grunts or shrieks when hitting the ball is about focusing concentration on hitting the ball. Making sounds while expending force is common with other sports, especially martial arts where concentration of force is paramount. However, there is one female player featured on the video — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYc0kILlRw4&feature=related — Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who I do think could be cited for causing distraction to her opponent. Her shrieking continues well after the ball leaves her racket and often accompanies the entire flight of the ball to just before her opponent hits the ball back. But she seems to be an exception to the rule. Most of the women players I’ve watched and listened to are making short grunts and shrieks as the hit the ball. My only cause of concern is the damage they are doing to their vocal chords. Continual short vocal explosions over the course 1-2 hour match cannot be a good thing for the voice.
    Jim

  5. Rochelle says:

    If a baseball player can hit a ball coming at him at 90 mph while thousands of fans of the opposing team are screaming “you suck” or any number of other things then surely a trained athlete of this caliber can block out a couple of grunts. Good grief! What a bunch of babies.

    • Baseball is an entirely different sort of game than Tennis — one is a team sport, the other an individual one. In an individual sport, it does very much if one of the opponents is clearly attempting to disrupt the concentration of the other.

  6. Rochelle says:

    Clearly I know nothing about sports and am just jealous….:-)

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