Wimbledon - Wimbledon chief slams grunters

Wed, 22 Jun 08:20:00 2011

The head of Wimbledon has said female tennis players who grunt when they hit their shots are spoiling the game for fans after those of Victoria Azarenka reached 95 decibels on the first day at SW19.

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The Belarusian, known for such noises, also made each shriek last over 1.5 seconds against Slovakia’s Magdalena Rybarikova, irritating spectators.

Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club, said that opponents have the right to complain to the umpire, which may help eradicate grunting.

“The players have an ability to complain about it - if one player is grunting too much and the other player doesn’t like it and it is distracting, they can complain to the umpire,” the former television executive told the Daily Telegraph.

“We are one tournament in a global circuit. But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.”

He added that tennis officials would “prefer to see less grunting” and that the practice was putting off many spectators.

“We have discussed it with the tours and we believe it is helpful to reduce the amount of grunting,” he said.

“I think there is an education problem with younger players. And certainly my postbag, if you say 'what do you get most letters about', I would say that grunting is high up.

“So we are aware, whether you are watching it on TV or here, people don’t particularly like it.”

The loudest 'grunt' on record was one of 105 decibels by Maria Sharapova in 2009.

Fourth seed Azarenka, 21, was mimicked by fans during Monday's match.

“People can do whatever they want but I hope they can respect all the players who grunt, which are about 70 per cent of the whole tour,” she said of the incident.

“I have been doing it since I was 10 years old. I wasn’t really strong and that was what helped me to accelerate more, to put more power to the ball.

“I cannot change it, that’s what helps me to play. I have to keep going with the thing that helps me play.”

Jonathan Symcox / Eurosport

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