IT HAS become common behaviour in top-level tennis, like the pumped fist on winning a set and the expletive aimed at a coach after an error. “Grunting” is too limited a name for it. The noises made by modern professionals range from wounded roars to frantic shrieks. Gone are the days of hushed rallies, punctuated only by the thud of felt on strings. Like sledging in cricket (talking to an opponent to disturb their concentration) and bat-flipping in baseball (throwing the bat in the air after a sizeable hit), squealing in tennis is considered by some players and spectators to be a blight on the game.
All three vices have been around for decades. Tennis’s best-known early grunters were Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Stars of the 1970s and the 1980s, and hardly famed for their courtesy on court, they used to groan with ostentatious exertion. Yet if they could claim to be exhaling with effort during particularly strenuous rallies, then Monica Seles extended the practice. In the 1990s she pioneered stroke-by-stroke screeches, delivered...Continue reading