It draws the ire of many tennis fans that when they watch the modern game it can at times resemble a glass-shattering shriek fest.
Victoria Palmer, an American tennis player during the early 1960’s, is credited as being the sport’s first ever grunter.
Martina Navratilova, the winner of 18 grand-slam titles, is one former player who has been quite vocal against grunting.
Navratilova won the Wimbledon crown a record nine times, including six in a row from 1982-1987 but when she faced Monica Seles in 1992 the vocals on display from the Serbian proved too much for even her to handle. Navratilova said: “I remember how it was when Monica (Seles) and I were competitors and she began to grunt.”
“I couldn’t hear the ball. I thought to myself, ‘Do I mention it to the umpire, do I say something to her? What should I do?’ And Monica was a friend. I had to say something in the end.”
For years, the grunts and shrieks of top female tennis players at Wimbledon have provided fodder for Britain’s pun-loving tabloid journalists. Armed with a Bruel & Kjaer sound-level meter that they refer to as the “grunt-o-meter,” they have at various times informed readers that tennis players are noisier than a pneumatic drill, a police siren or a 747 taking off.
While Navratilova and others claim that silent players are at a disadvantage, history shows it might be the noisier players who suffer on the court, at least in the short-term. At the 1992 Wimbledon final, for example, Seles, after being savaged in the press for her distinctive two-tone grunting, played in near silence and was defeated by German Steffi Graf. After the match, Graf admitted, “There was so much talk about her grunting that I think maybe it got to her a little bit.” That’s enough to make a competitive tennis player howl.