Aryna Sabalenka's Grunting Mocked During Australian Open Loss
The "familiar debate over on-court decibel levels has resurfaced" after Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka "drew mockery from the Melbourne Park crowd on Tuesday night" during her first-round Australian Open defeat to Ashleigh Barty, according to the London GUARDIAN. Sabalenka "was her usual vocal self from the outset on Rod Laver Arena and the partisan crowd let their displeasure known by imitating her shrieks" in between points. At one stage, "the umpire was forced to ask for quiet in the stands," although her choice of words -- “Ladies and gentlemen please, during the rally, do not scream" -- only seemed to make fans "redouble their efforts" and Sabalenka’s service preparation "was interrupted by further impressions." While Barty said that she was "not unduly affected, plenty viewing from afar were." Former doubles champion Todd Woodbridge tweeted, "Nice player Sabalenka but something needs to be done about her noise and grunting on court." Commentator Pam Shriver tweeted, "Sabalenka has 347 different sounding grunts. What a talent." Tennys Sandgren, who plays Stan Wawrinka in the second round at Melbourne Park, tweeted, "I don’t know how many times this girl has grunted into Barty’s swing, but man it’s really getting to me. It’s clearly affecting her play" (GUARDIAN, 1/16).
NAME CHANGE?: In London, Kevin Mitchell reported Laura Robson has come out in favor of "renaming the Margaret Court Arena, becoming the first current player at the Australian Open to advocate doing so." The former British No. 1 "believes Court’s outspoken and controversial views about LGBT issues and same‑sex marriage do merit action" from Tennis Australia and the Victorian government. Billie Jean King "spoke out strongly against Court on the eve of the tournament" but players competing in the year’s first grand slam event "have been reluctant to get involved in the row" (GUARDIAN, 1/17).