Cover your ears - the often chastised tennis grunt could get a whole lot louder after scientific revelations that it could benefit a player’s game.
The source of immense irritation to many opponents and observers of tennis can have physiological benefits by increasing core stability and strength according to recently published research.
“By inhaling before the ball is hit then crying out at the moment of impact, a player’s throat narrows, keeping some wind in the lungs to improve core strength and balance”, says Professor Alison McConnell of Brunel University.
Prof. McConnell told the Daily Mail: “We all instinctively inhale just before we make a physical effort such as lifting furniture or swinging a racquet at a ball.”
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“A more effective technique is to breathe out through a controlled, forceful exhalation using the larynx.
“It is in using this technique that some players feel the need to grunt. This braking action doesn’t need audible grunting but it’s easier to coach if you can hear it.
“Any coach will tell you that the heart of a good stroke is a relaxed rhythm, part of achieving this rhythm is getting your breathing and stroke in tune.”
The origins of the aggressive art of grunting is often attributed to nine-time grand slam champion Monica Seles in the early nineties - but has been taken to new levels through contemporary stars such as Maria Sharapova and Michelle Larcher De Brito. But these player’s have been playing with an edge as a player who exhales normally as they hit the ball could losing lose ‘control in their core’.
Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have at different times in the last five years called for a ban on grunting.
“Roger Federer doesn’t make a noise when he hits the ball - go and listen,” Navratilova told the UK’s Times in 2009.
“The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done.”
Evert attacked Maria Sharapova’s increase in grunting at important times in a match. “Really the next time you watch say Maria Sharapova, the grunting is consistent but all of a sudden when she has a set up, she has a winner, the grunting gets louder”, said Evert.
“Because Monica Seles was such a lovely girl, we didn’t want to rub it in too much” “But it is distracting when you are hearing this and I think the grunts are getting louder and more shrill now with the current players.”
Portuguese 18-year-old Larcher de Brito’s grunts were so loud at the French Open in 2009 that an opponent, France’s Aravane Rezai, complained to the umpire.
“You know, when she was winning, she never complained. Only when I started to get my game going, I started winning games, then all of a sudden, you know, my noise is a nuisance. ... I mean, I could [stop grunting], but, you know, it won’t feel natural, because it feels like something is missing in my game if I just stop”, said Larcher de Brito at the time. “If people don’t like my grunting they can always leave.” Players can have a point awarded against them if the umpire feels their grunting has hindered an opponent.