Much has been made of professional tennis players who grunt or otherwise emit loud noises as they swing at the tennis ball. BBC News did a large piece on it in late June. About 10 days later, ABC News did a piece, thus making the matter suitable for American consumption.
The BBC News article tells the story pretty well, including discussing why it’s an issue now considering that there have been a number of noisy players since the ’70s. Monica Seles and her auditory performances were cited as a landmark shift in the woman’s game.
Also, the article quotes trainer Nick Bollettieri who says the grunting (or just exhaling at the end of a maneuver) can be natural.
“I prefer to use the word ‘exhaling’. I think that if you look at other
sports, weightlifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the
shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a
constructive way,” Bollettieri said.
I decided to put Bollettieri’s theory to the test. I wanted to see if grunting was a natural release of energy. So my friends and I went to the best court we could find — the table tennis set at The Oasis.
After a couple of warm-up rounds, I tested to see if grunting would help my game at all. With every swing of the tiny wooden paddle, I tried to push out a little more air and emit a loud “UGH” or a breathy “EH” as I reached out for the ping pong ball.
While it cracked my opponent up, I don’t believe it helped my game much. It also seemed artificial emitting a sound as I lined up my return.
Perhaps the field of play was too small — maybe table tennis isn’t ready yet for grunters. I wonder if grunting in tennis is necessary — I played racquetball over the years and don’t recall a lot of grunting.
I guess my experiment was rather silly, but at least it had a paddle and a ball. BBC Radio 1’s “Newsbeat” didn’t even have that — they asked people outside Wimbledon to play “grunt tennis,” where they pantomimed playing tennis grunting all the while.
So, to grunt or not to grunt? What do you think?