Wimbledon 2011 Official: Grunting Is Good Tennis Strategy But Unfair

by Head Coach

tennis grunt wimbledon 2011 Wimbledon 2011 Official: Grunting Is Good Tennis Strategy But UnfairTo grunt or not to grunt at Wimbledon 2011

That has been the question of a lot of tennis players and fans alike for some time now. And for some, the “problem” is just getting worse.

In fact, Wimbledon 2011 is having a big issue with the amount of tennis grunting going on, in during the first week of competition.

Some Wimbledon 2011 tournament officials have even gone on record, essentially saying it’s really killing tennis and takes away a lot from the game.

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

Although spectators may find the noise off-putting, “We are one tournament in a global circuit… But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it.” - Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn and Tennis Club.

I mean, does grunting really even help? Or is belting out a loud yelp or scream just something that players like Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova do to be annoying?

Science Says Grunting Gives Wimbledon 2011 Players Tactical Edge:

Well, science says it’s both.  Thanks to a new study published in the journal, Public Library of Science ONE, we now have at least some concrete evidence that suggests that a “tennis grunt” could actually give the initiator a strategic and competitive edge. And it could really do some damage to the receiving player’s game.

Two psychologists, from both the University of Hawaii and the University of British Columbia, recently conducted a survey which showed that making “extraneous sound,”  a sound that simulated grunting, while a player is awaiting an oncoming ball can cause their response/reaction to decrease both in the speed and accuracy departments.

The findings of the experiment also gave support to the idea that grunting could compromise the receiver’s judgment when attempting to read and analyze the spin and speed of a ball as well.

How did they come to this conclusion?

The two behind the study, Dr. Scott Sinnett and Dr. Alan Kingstone, took 33 students from western Canada and showed them 374 video clips of a tennis player hitting a ball to either the left or the right. In half of those clips, the player added a loud grunt while hitting his ball, and in the other half he remained silent.

Then, upon hearing the ball hitting the player’s racket, the students had to decide on the direction it would take. And no, they couldn’t sit there all day trying to decide.  It was imperative they come up with a definitive answer right away.

And what happened? Well, what was noticed was that the scores of those students suffered a significant drop off when viewing shots where the player made extra noise or became very vocal.

It quickly became harder to distinguish the ball’s trajectory and destination – much more difficult than it was when they viewed clips where no outside noise was provided (…when they only had to deal with the ball hitting the strings).

After this observation, Dr. Sinnett gave his obvious conclusion of the results when players are forced to analyze the shot of a grunting opponent. “They were basically slower and could actually be wrong-footed, if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court.”

OK, so they’re slower. But now you’re probably wondering exactly how much slower and how much longer a player would have to wait to make a movie, right?

Well, based on the findings, it suggests that a tennis ball struck along with a loud grunt can travel a whopping 2 extra feet in the air before the opponent is able to respond. Wow, that’s a lot of lost time, isn’t it? You bet!

Now, this is shocking, sure.  But it’s not surprising at all, if you ask me.   If you think about it, these results truly make a lot of sense.  How so?

Well, I’ve always believed that the sound exerted during racket-ball contact can be a great indicator of what type of shot will be generated and where the ball may actually land inside (…or outside) the court.

For example, a player hitting a hard flat-bomb (…right in the sweet-spot) is going to sound much different than a backspin, slice shot, or even a mishit.

Hearing these sounds can assist you in understanding the proper positioning and stance you’ll need to acquire, in order to complete a worthwhile return – two concepts extremely critical in the world of tennis strategy.

Examples include:  

A. The Flat Bomb (loud bang) = Stay back, execute a neutral or even defensive shot in return… Very quick and possibly short/contracted back-swing.

B. The Slice (knife cutting an apple) = Be patient, advance or stay neutral, multiple options on the reply (…topspin, slice, flat).

C. The Mis-hit or Broken String (BOOINNNNG) = Up the aggression!  Prepare to advance forward to possibly put the ball away.

Grunting Can Make These Important Sounds Almost Impossible To  Hear, Wimbledon 2011 Player or Not.

You see, since a player generally will grunt at the exact same time he/she strikes the ball,  it becomes very difficult (…and at times impossible) to tell how well the ball and shot have been hit. Why? Because that sound indicator will have been totally masked or canceled out.

And with that, there comes an extra moment of indecision.  The receiving player is forced to wait a fraction of a second longer and (…24 inches of ball flight) to make his move.  So, he’ll find himself a step behind, when he could have been well on top of things.

It’s the same thing in baseball. Time is incredibly crucial there as well.  You need to be able to react within a split-second of contact.  The sound of that ball hitting the end of the bat is going to give you a big clue as to which area of the field the outfield players should cover.

And heck, now you have multiple players (…more than 5) involved. So, it’s importance is magnified. Make the wrong move there, and you’ll run into one another and fall flat on your butt.

And when the volume of the crowd reaches a certain decibel, it becomes much harder to know where that thing is going (…grounder, left-field-right-field, or center field).  Again, you lose that second and are forced to wait.  The only difference in tennis is, the player can control the noise. He can release it or silence it on a whim.

So, if you want to slow down your opponent in your next match, go ahead and grunt. Feel free to open up those vocal chords!  But hey, you don’t want to make it a point to be as loud as possible or overdo it.  That will displace your focus.


Now before I head out, let me ask you… Is this strategy a fair one?  Many people, like Martina Navratilova, believe grunting is awful and should be banned from tennis or at least be made punishable by the commission.

But if you ask the legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri, who has coached many “grunters” like Andre Agassi, he says grunting is 100% natural and no action should be taken.

So… With all that said and the new evidence provided… Should grunting be banned from tennis? Is there a significant enough of an unfair advantage in play here? Or should we all just forget about it and play tennis, because all is fair in tennis warfare? What do you think?

For more kick-butt tennis tips and strategies on how to steal away your opponent’s reaction time (…without grunting), click here.

Have a great week guys! And enjoy the rest of Wimbledon 2011


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }


Grunting does help in tennis. I am a black belt in several martial arts and we don’t call it grunting, but chi’ing out. It helps increase power and concentration. I don’t think people should scream but they could still chi out normally or softly, it doesn’t have to be loud.

I find women’s tennis very annoying because they are overdoing it.

Perry Eddleman

I don’t grunt, but have no problem with an oponent grunting. I like the fact that if I want to grunt I can with the rules the way they are now. If there was a rule emplemented to prevent players from grunting, then other things would change because of other opinions about other things. Leave the game the way it is!


I watch a lot of tournament tennis on TV and find the over the top grunting which has become more like screaming, to be very annoying. It seems the women do it far more than the men. When I hear that I find myself rooting for the other player. We don’t want our game to become like golf where you can’t speak above a whisper, but come on people tone it down a little.


Maria Sharapova often grunts at 95 decibels and has grunted as loud as 105 decibels. Any sound regularly heard that’s over 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Maria Sharapova is heading towards deafness in her later years. A lawnmower’s volume is around 90 decibels. Because of the logarithmic nature of the decibel system, a Sharapova shriek at 100 decibels is actually 10 times louder than a lawnmower. You would have to say that it’s extremely hard to constantly grunt or shriek louder than a lawnmower. You couldn’t do it without great effort, deliberation and practice.

If grunting is not a distraction, why not allow the crowd to walk around and/or talk – as in other sports. Perhaps it’s because tennis is “old-fashioned,” where respect is paid towards the players in the form of quiet. If this is so, then players should show the same courtesy to their opponents.

Sharapova often grunts for the duration of the ball reaching the opponent. But if her ball hits the net, the grunting suddently stops. Think about this the next time you watch a Sharapova match (with the volume turned down). Isn’t this suspicious?

Elite players employ a sports psychlogist, fitness trainer, as well as coach. Does Sharapova also employ a throat specialist to rest her throat at the end of a match?

Why do grunters get away with it? There is definitely truth in the argument that grunting is a natural side effect of suddenly expelling air after tensing up for a sudden release of power. But the volume of this expelled air just doesn’t seem to add up. Tennis players work on their game all the time. Sometimes they completely reconstruct a part of their game, e.g., their serve, in order to develop themselves. Imagine the determination required to reconstruct your style once you’ve become professional, yet they do just that. They are impressive human beings. I’m confident they can also train out their grunting.

I think some players don’t need to train themselves out of grunting. It takes 30 days to form a habit. If you maintain a routine at something for 30 days, it becomes easier to stick to it. For some, grunting is just a habit that can be un-done. They should do this for the sake of the traditions and courtesy of the game of tennis.

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