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Women's Tennis Matches Ruined by Loud Shrieks and Grunts

Updated on November 18, 2016
janderson99 profile image

Dr. John applies his scientific & research skills to review and evaluate new trends in sports, games, rules and to review training methods.

The crowd's enjoyment of the tennis a the recent Australian Open has been marred by the loud shrieks with every stroke by Maria Sharapova, Ekaterina Makarova and Victoria Azarenka. Many other players grunt and shriek loudly. Such grunts and shrieks seem to get louder and louder, through a match, and have got much louder over the years. Crowds at many matches have complained. They have made mocking sounds mimicking the screams, all to no avail. Many of the fans are considering bringing ear muffs or ear plugs to future matches, or to simply stay away or avoid the screaming matches. Many people watching on their home TVs turn their sound way down to avoid the annoyance which distracts from the enjoyment of watching tennis. The BBC has considered developing a filter device that reduces the high frequency shrieking sounds, while not affecting the other sounds The opponents who have been the victims of the shrieks, have complained, but the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has done nothing about it and kids learning to play the game follow the example of the premier players. How loud are the grunts and shrieks and are they fair? Should the shrieks be banned and if so how can this be done? Should loud grunting and shrieking be banned?

The first screamer in International Tennis was probably Monica Seles prompting Steffi Graf to complain to the umpire that it was a distraction technique. But apparently nothing was done about it then, nor since. Serena Williams received a penalty when she lost the women’s finals against Australian Sam Stosur, for yelling “Come on!” just as Sam Stosur was about to make a shot. The Shrieks resound for several seconds, long after the ball leaves racket and most until the opponent is about to hit the ball. Surely this is the same thing - distracting an opponent while preparing to make a shot.

Various players have recently complained to the media that Maria Sharapova’s shrieks are annoying and much too loud, but any official complains either on or off the courts seem to be rare. Lots of players now make various grunts but nothing nearly as loud.

How Loud are the Shrieks?

The table below compares the shrieks measured recently at about 90-100 dB. This is right on the threshold of loudness for risking permanent injury for sustained exposure at 90 dB. It is almost as loud as an ambulance or police car siren ( 115 dB), a motorcycle (100 dB) and a jackhammer (110 dB) and a lawn mower (90 dB). These sounds are certainly very loud.

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What is being done about it?

Many commentators have claimed that the loud shrieks are designed to intimidate the opponent by sending a message that the player has hit the ball extremely hard. It is a habit during competitions and games, but is not done all the time and so its not a physical requirement. The players do not shriek during warm-up or practice. This means that the shriekers are doing it intentionally to intimidate, if not distract their opponents, whether they admit to it or not. It is a deliberate tactic.

Some Tennis coaches say shrieking and grunting is simply an exaggerated exhalation of air that follows physical exertion, like the yell made with a karate chop. But why so loud, and why does it vary at different stages of the match. Why is it absent during training and warm-up? It must be very distracting to opponents who are used to the gentle and soft thwack and a whizz sounds of the ball hitting the raquets.

Some commentators allege that grunters and shriekers are blatant cheats because, at the very least, the noise disguises the sound of the ball coming from the strings of the racquet. Players can normally tell how hard the ball is hit and whether it has been hit in the centre of the racket from the sound it makes. The shrieks drown out these sounds.

Grunts grow louder under pressure and during critical points which may be signs of extra exertion, but could also be seen as unfair and distracting.


The action proposed by the WTA to focus on training and coaching to discourage its use is too weak and its unlikely to be successful, when no action is taken during competitive matches. Young payers will follow what they see on TV. It is unlike to work.

Loud grunting and shrieking should be banned and the penalty for shrieking should be the same penalty as for any other unsporting conduct in tennis: WARNING, POINT PENALTY, FORFEIT. Umpires should be provided with loudness meters and players warned when the sounds exceed a certain level they will be penalised. Prolonged shrieks that extend after the shot is made should always be banned. Players should be encouraged to complain to the umpire about these distractions as applies to other things during matches.

What do you Think?

Should Loud Shrieking and Grunts be Banned and Penalised

See results

Sound Level Comparisons

Tunguska Meteor: a massive explosion in Russia in 1908
Blue Whale
rocket launch
howitzer cannon
safety airbag
.357 magnum revolver
cap gun
fighter jet launch
Fireworks: The Sydney Harbour Bridge on New Year's Eve
jet engine at takeoff
Rock concert: Swans
Rock concert: Manowar
air raid siren
peak stadium crowd noise
Rock concert: The Who
balloon popping
emergency vehicle siren
Tennis Crowd Noise: Australian Open
sporting event
motorcycle (riding)
Tennis: Maria Sharapova
Tennis: Victoria Azarenka
inside subway car
lawn mower
Sound level risking damage when sustained
passing diesel truck
alarm clock
vacuum cleaner
conversational speech
light traffic
babbling brook
rustling leaves
a pin dropping
healthy hearing threshold

© 2012 Dr. John Anderson


Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    Kieran Gracie 3 years ago

    Shrieking really interferes with my enjoyment of tennis matches, and I can't believe that it doesn't upset the shrieker's opponent as well. Male players - Nadal and Murray in particular - do it too, although their grunts are less bothersome because they are at a lower frequency level.

    Interestingly I notice from your dB table that the sound from lawn mowers can cause damage too, so perhaps this is the excuse I need to overlook the grass growing too long!

    Good Hub, voted accordingly. Thank you.

  • Time Spiral profile image

    Time Spiral 4 years ago from Florida

    No. Grunting improves your performance and can enhance the power of your tennis shots. See "Breathe Strong, Perform Better" By Alison McConnell. This is not really debated.

    I love Tennis. I enjoy spectating both the ATP and the WTA and the grunting does not bother me, nor do I think it is a gamesmanship issue either. Men and women--but women especially--are trained from the beginning to control their breathing while swinging, which typically results in a grunt (or shriek).

    The idea that tennis players--hyper elite athletes at the peak of physical and mental capacity--can't play, or are markedly impaired by loud noises, crowd noises, or even slight crowd movements is utterly pretentious, and one of the things I hate about the game at the pro level.

    The only time the grunting should be addressed is if the umpire and the opponent agree that the other player intended to hinder their opponent with it, which is already clearly regulated by the rules of tennis.

  • dilipchandra12 profile image

    Dilip Chandra 5 years ago from India

    Good hub, i think they shout to gather strength.

  • profile image

    vankyali 5 years ago

    I wrote to WTA after the istanbul semis oct 28 2012


    Have you noticed that Azarenka, one of the worst shriekers does it to intimidate her opponents as loud as she ca. when she is losing, she stops shrieking..istanbulo, shrapova azarenka match. The conclusion is she can stop shrieking if she wants to. So the WTA has to increase its vigilance over this issue. I never want to watch shriekers play because its just too vulgar and noisy. There are lots of likeminded viewers out there. So do something!

  • profile image

    Hello 5 years ago

    Shrieking helps the players exert their force. It's not fair to ask them to stop shrieking just so that there are more people watching and the stadiums owner's get better sales for tickets.

  • profile image

    Isabel 5 years ago

    The abominable shrieking was unbearable making it the worst match of the Open. Time for the WTA to ban it.

  • profile image

    Laurel 5 years ago

    Two screamers tonight = watching something else on TV. A shame, because it is likely to be a high quality match - like last night's match.

    (By the way, should there be a penalty for unseemly pulling your jocks out of your bum a la 'Raffa'?)

  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

    Its good they're doing that. But I still think that the screamers should either be fined or have point deductions.

  • janderson99 profile image

    Dr. John Anderson 5 years ago from Australia on Planet Water

    Update: Tennis Australia is to issue free ear plugs for the crowd for the Women's Final and the Australian Open as its Sharapova vs Azarenka - Screamer vs Screamer.

  • JKenny profile image

    James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

    I'm totally with you on this one. They should have banned it years ago. I've gotten to the stage where I'll turn off Women's matches, because I know I'm going to have to put with screams and grunts.

  • InTuneWithCooking profile image

    InTuneWithCooking 5 years ago from Australia

    Yep. I agree, it annoys the @#%$ out of me.