SBD/July 2, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Grunt Work: WTA's Battle To Reduce The On-Court Noise Level Examined On "OTL"

Sharapova, the top-ranked female player, is arguably the "most notable grunter"
The issue of grunting in tennis was discussed on ESPN's "Outside The Lines" yesterday, with WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster saying fans are "telling us pretty clearly that they would like us to address the noise level.” Allaster added, "No doubt on this particular issue, there seems to be a growing concern from fans around the world: They don’t like it. It’s too loud.” Tennis Channel analyst Martina Navratilova said, “It’s hurting the game. It’s not just the players that are affected, it’s the fans.” ESPN's Kelli Naqi noted Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, the top two players on the WTA, are "among the loudest grunters or shriekers in the sport." ESPN’s Brad Gilbert added it is the "next generation that it’s affected." Gilbert: "It’s the kids that watch on TV, they watch their stars do it and they emulate it.” ESPN’s Chris Evert said, “You’re not going to stop it overnight, and the players won’t stop it anyway. They run the Tour. The top players provide a living for 200 other players. So they have a lot of power. But give it a year.” However, Navratilova said, “You start giving them point penalties, they’ll stop. They will be hitting the ball just as hard.” ESPN's Pam Shriver said, "Let’s face it, to legislate against things that are annoying to any of our senses ... is a slippery slope.” Shriver added that a lot of it is “PR-driven because it’s really terrible public relations at a time for women’s tennis where we’ve come off four years ... of unstable top players that can’t hang on to the No. 1 spot.” Meanwhile, Gilbert said, “I’m amazed -- honestly -- that companies pay them so much money to sponsor them when they scream like that” (“Outside The Lines,” ESPN, 7/1).

NECESSARY MOVE? In Orlando, Shannon Owens notes the "most notable grunter" happens to Sharapova, and Owens asks, "Why would the sport aim to create a rule that directly targets one of its top players?" That would be the "equivalent of NBA Commissioner David Stern creating a policy against head bands knowing LeBron James likes to wear them." Owens: "You don't have to like it, but if it gives them an edge -- be it physical or mental -- and it's within the rules of the sport, that should be of no one else's concern" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/2).
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