Tennis players Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, the “two loudest screamers in the game,” will play in the women’s final of the Australian Open Saturday morning, and “never before has so much attention been drawn to the high-pitched squeals they emit each time they strike the ball,” according to Margie McDonald of THE AUSTRALIAN. Several players have been “brave enough to speak up about the distraction of the yelping and grunting, most notably Agnieszka Radwanska after she lost to Azarenka in the quarter-finals.” Still, Azarenka and Sharapova “remain defiant.” Sharapova earlier this week said, "You've watched me grow up; you've watched me play tennis. I've been the same over the course of my career. No one important enough has told me to change or do something different. I've answered it many times before." Azarenka added: "It's been asked before and here again you're still asking me the same question. So I guess I have to repeat what I said before. ... It's the way I am, the way I play, the way I used to play when I was a kid." The WTA issued a statement “virtually saying it wanted to stamp out the screaming.” But in the “same breath, it acknowledged it was powerless to stop two of its biggest stars because they had been doing it for so long” (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/27). In N.Y., Ben Rothenberg wrote despite the “increasing outcry against excessive grunting, representatives from the International Tennis Federation, the United States Tennis Association and Tennis Australia said that grunting was not a high-level issue for them” (N.Y. TIMES, 1/26). In London, Valentine Low wrote the WTA will be “concentrating its attentions on the forthcoming generation of young players,” as the veterans “show no sign of being prepared to change their ways” (LONDON TIMES, 1/26).
EARPLUGS ANYONE? In Melbourne, Richard Hinds wrote at the “all-shrieking final, anyone capable of drowning out the ear-shattering expulsions of Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova should be given an access-all-areas pass.” The match-up has even “vindicated the lyrics of one of AC/DC's anthems.” Hinds: “Rock'n'roll ain't noise pollution when compared with the aural bombardment to which 15,000 tennis lovers will be subjected.” There have been “half-hearted hints this week that the WTA Tour and the ITF might consider measures to muffle the worst offenders.” But, “of course, the WTA particularly is more likely to close the on-site hairdressing salon than take on its pampered starlets over grunting” (THEAGE.com, 1/27).
THE CORE FOUR: Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal will meet in the men's finals Sunday morning after beating Andy Murray and Roger Federer, respectively, in the semifinals. The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Tom Perrotta noted in the “big four ... are so large that they make otherwise imposing colleagues look like specks of dust.” The Australian Open marks the “second straight time they've occupied all four spots in a Grand Slam semifinal,” and the “third time in the last four majors that they've claimed all four semifinal spots.” Tennis is “that predictable right now, though it's not something you'll hear fans complaining about.” Since Marat Safin won the ‘05 Australian Open, only “one man not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has won a Grand Slam title” -- Juan Martin Del Porto's win at the '09 U.S. Open (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1/26).