Ban the grunt? Really?

OK, so this is a bit of a departure from my usual material, but this ‘issue’ has only just caught my attention and I can barely believe it’s serious.

I’ll admit that I know very little about, and have very little interest in all things sports. So it probably looks like I’ve been living under a rock to not be aware of the apparently long-held controversy over the ‘grunt’ in tennis. But it seems that the players’ enthusiastic grunts, groans and shrieks are pissing off the fans.

Let us all heave a collective ‘awwww’ for the poor fans.

Sure, the various sounds that come out of these elite sportspeople’s mouths can range from interesting to amusing to annoying. But is it really that much of a nuisance that we want to ban them from expressing something that I dare say is largely a subconscious response to the pressures of the game as they play it?

Have you ever watched a classical musician play? Seen their heads wobble comically, their mouths move in a range of bizarre contortions as they ply their instrument to create beautiful music? Would we ask them to please refrain from this because it detracts from the beauty of their art? So why would we expect tennis players to stop what is most likely coming unbidden from inside them during the competition?

Some believe the players are using these vocalisations to ‘cheat’ or gain an advantage over their opponent. Not knowing a whole lot about the game, I won’t deny this is a possibility. A few months ago I wouldn’t have believed grunting, yelping or shrieking could possibly do anything to help someone while playing sport. I’m the shy, retiring type, and the idea of using my voice as a thing of power had never occurred to me.

But that was before I went through labour, the majority of it without pain relief. I began with deep breathing and progressed over the hours to bellowing with no embarrassment whatsoever. The louder I shouted, the easier the pain was to bear and the more powerful I felt. I don’t expect any special congratulations for doing this. I’m merely making the point that vocalisation can be a useful tool to deal with intense pressure.

So now I get it. Martial artists use vocalisations in their forms to increase their power. Other sportspeople use it in their chosen codes. So why are tennis players targeted? Is it because it is a so-called civilised, British game, so the players should just behave themselves and act like gentlemen/ladies?

And why do the fans think they should be able to tell these athletes how to play the game? They find it annoying. That’s it.

Well, you know what, fans? I find your whinging annoying. If you don’t like the grunt, don’t go to the tennis. Mute your f*&@ing television. Start watching croquet or lawn bowls instead*. Or how about you try playing the game yourself against the best tennis players in the world and show us how easy it is to face that pressure without uttering a sound out of your perfect mouths?

Like I said, I’m not a great sports fan myself. But I can appreciate a good tennis game, and I honestly don’t get what the big deal is about the grunt. Rant over.

*No offence intended to the fine sports of croquet and lawn bowls.

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About Rebecca Freeborn

Writer, reader, horse rider, unapologetic grammar nazi, wine drinker. View all posts by Rebecca Freeborn

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