October 2, 2010

Is it unfair for tennis players to grunt?

Supposedly, this scientific study lends support to those who say it is:
Hundreds of video clips were shown of a player hitting a ball to either the left or right. The students had to determine the direction quickly, but on some shots were subjected to noises simulating grunting.

..."The findings were unequivocal. Basically, when the video clips did have a grunt, the participants were not only slower to react but they had lower accuracy levels. So they were basically slower and could actually be wrong-footed, if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court."
Is distracting a video-watcher similar enough to annoying someone who's actively playing the game under pressure? It's different... but which way is it different? Is the real-life player less or more affected by the noise?

Why is being noisy and annoying okay in some sports but not others? (I'm thinking of golf.)


traditionalguy said...

Talking trash is a common tactic to "get inside the head" of opponents. Golf is not considered a competition between the players. It is a Scottish gentleman's walking game that only competes with the Par assigned to the course over which you walk. Since it is not rational to talk trash at a golf course, it is seen as bad form. My wife does say sweet suggestions to her ball before she places it on the tee. She believes that she gets more with honey than with vinegar.

GMay said...

Two things about noise in golf. One, it's tradition and golf has a heavy aspect of tradition in the game, even down to rules and enforcement of rules.

Second, golfers don't usually have a problem with noise if it's constantly noisy. If it's dead quiet when you start your swing and someone decides to yell at the top of your backswing, it's a bit distracting. Golf (even team golf) is an individual effort, so outside influences (like noise) from a fan or another competitor interferes with a fundamental part of the game.

Oligonicella said...

".. if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court."

Big if, Sparky.

Consider fencing.

In tournament, there's little talking. In fact, a judge can award points against you for excess noise or trash talk (used to be very strict). Grunting *very* loudly might be distracting.

On the field with a crowd watching and making lots of noise. No effect.

I'd suggest practicing in a nice private court might make you susceptible. Practicing with people around might toughen your perceptions.

Is there a rule against it? If not, it ain't cheating.

Heeeyyyyy, batter, batter, batter, batter, batter.

virgil xenophon said...

The sound of the ball as it comes off the racquet tells one both the pace with it has been hit, and, in conjunction with the visual keys as to type of stroke (i.e., slice, flat or topspin) dictates speed/direction of movement and racquet preparation in anticipation of return and stroke selection/racquet technique to use in response. Aural cue's are ABSOLUTELY vital at the higher levels of competitiveness.

virgil xenophon said...

**""....with WHICH it has been hit."

Jess said...

Heeeyyyyy, batter, batter, batter, batter, batter.

That's exactly what we need to bring some excitement to post-Tiger golf.

Hey, putter putter putter - swiiiiiiiiinnngg!

AllenS said...

When Maria Sharapova grunts, I listen.

tim maguire said...

How do they get from "distracting" to "unfair"? What's unfair about it? It's not against the rules, has a valid purpose (vocalizing the exertion can help focus your energies) and everyone has an equal opportunity to grunt.

Traditionalguy is right about why golf is different--golfers don't play against each other, they play against the course and the winner is the one who did better against the course.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Why is being noisy and annoying okay in some sports but not others? (I'm thinking of golf.)"

There are, frankly, more grunts in golf that you let on, Ann.

Google: Tiger Woods

Alex said...

Just another way Nadal has cheated his way to undeserved victories.

Alex said...

Federer doesn't grunt. He's THE classy champ!

Scrutineer said...

Why is being noisy and annoying okay in some sports but not others?

It's not okay in sports where form is unusually important. E.g., golf and tennis. If your service motion or golf swing are the tiniest bit off, you lose. It's nearly impossible to compensate for bad form by exerting more effort in the rest of your game.

I suspect the same is or would be true in baseball. Catchers don't shout as a pitch moves towards the batter, and baserunners don't shout while a pitcher is throwing. Miscreants would probably get punched for trying stuff like that.

george said...

Grunting might also be a disadvantage since your opponent might be able to divine such things as how hard you are hitting the ball or exactly when your moment of maximum exertion occurs. Of course, if you are the "grunter" then you can vary when you grunt and throw your opponent off if you think they are timing your swing that way.

In any case, it has to be less distracting than all of the temper tantrums tennis players used to throw.

rcocean said...

Who cares about the player, what about the Spectators?

I personally find all this "grunting" and "Shrieking" annoying as hell. One reason, along with the vapid commentary that I watch with the sound off.

Golf, as someone stated is different. You need to concentrate, and swing at the ball or putt in a very precise manner - otherwise disaster. Constant or expected noise on a golf course is no problem. Its distracting noise that can't be tolerated.

And lets face it, Golf fans are classy, tennis fans OTOH have always been vulgar nouveau-riche types, most of them are just wresting fans with more money.

hillbilly said...


Cedarford said...

Rafa Nadal grunts for a reason. He puts 70-120% more spin on the ball than any of the other Top 10 players. It takes superhuman effort to do that and none of the other men tennis players complain. He grunts for a reason.

Less forgivable is the womans game of a cadre of high volume shriekers that scream when putting away a dink volley.

I like to watch Sharapova and Serena Williams play - but cannot watch them for more than a few minutes because the screetches become do distracting and irritating.

rcocean said...

Its hard to believe Tennis was once considered a classy, elite sport. Its not just the shrieking and grunting. Its the temper tantrums, the whining about calls, the trashy fashions, the shouts from the crowd (attaboy!), the female, "hey look at me - aren't my boobs great" attitude.

When someone like McEnroe is considered a class act, you've got a sport that's only for the plebes.

I watch Wimbledon of course, but Golf is so superior for those with taste.

ndspinelli said...

When my pet pig, Virgil, grunts and "squeels like a piggy" [Deliverance] when I'm having my way w/ him, I never get distracted.

AllenS said...

At almost 64 years of age, every time I grunt while trying to lift something very heavy, I shit my pants.

Belkys said...

Sharapova´s screeming has been criticized by her peers. The match against another esat european was the remake of a scary movie

Joe said...

Next, it will be unfair for tennis players to make extraordinary moves to return a well placed shot.

br549 said...

Various grunts and growls are still acceptable in sport sex aren't they?

jimbino said...

Someone needs to introduce the vuvuzela to tennis in order to mask the grunts.

traditionalguy said...

Do I smell a free speech issue? Golfers are forbidden to express themselves.

Tom McLaughlin said...

My understanding for the grunts is that they're done by the oldest or weakest, and this is an evolutionary throwback. We older people tend to make straining noises when we get up from a chair, lift something heavy, etc. as a signal to predators about which of us to cull from the herd.

Make sense?

Alex said...

Tom - that doesn't explain why early 20-something players are grunting like crazy.

C4 - I don't buy the excuse for Nadal. I've seen rallies where suddenly he stops grunting and hits the ball just fine. It's a form of cheating.

Kirby Olson said...

I wish chess was on TV more often.

I'd also like to see more badminton.

Quiet sports are better.

People should just be quiet.

The quietest people should get tax breaks.

There should be a sport for whoever can be quietest for the longest period of time.

This would put the dead back in the running.

Finally, a sport for dead people!