Women ‘Silenced’ on the Tennis Courts [by Josh]
The Wimbledon 2009 Tennis Tournament finishes this weekend in the suburbs of London. All four top seeds from the women side of the tournament have advanced and have made it to the semi-finals.
With players Venus and Serena Williams, Dinara Safina and Elena Dementieva, the finals should be extremely competitive. However, some tennis fans are not nearly as excited for these finals due to the noises these females players make while playing the game.
Many players in tennis make a noise when they attempt to hit the ball with their racket. For men this is often a grunt, while for women it is typically higher pitched and described by some as a shriek (including former women’s tennis legend Chris Everett). Chris Everett is not alone in her disapproval about women players’ audible noise. Martina Navratilova who won 18 grand slams has been quoted, “Roger Federer doesn’t make a noise when he hits the ball – go and listen. The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done.”
Both tennis greats clearly disagree with these new player produced game sounds, however, neither of these players grew up with the training current players received.
Starting in the early 90s young players were encouraged to make a sound when they struck the tennis ball. This was to develop more consistency in their timing and their swing. It is important to note that this criticism has been mostly reserved for female players, despite the fact that male players also do make audible noises in the same manner. Here is a link to a video displaying the noise Maria Sharapova (one of the major “cheaters”), De Brito, and others make while striking the tennis ball.
The International Tennis Federation who is the main body which governs the sport of tennis does not have any specific rules addressing this issue. However, they do provide a brief section on hindrance which is provided below:
If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point. However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either an unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the player’s own control (not including a permanent fixture).
Are these female athletes cheating? Are they hindering their opponents by making these noises? Is it right that male players are not receiving criticism?
While the noise may over-represent the physical exertion the players put forth, they do posses the right to make these sounds on the court. The sound does not break any rules because the noise is not intentional. The sound is a part of their game and has been ingrained into their playing style since they began training.
Furthermore, the players are only creating noise when they strike the ball, not when they’re opponent strikes. If officials want to rule the noise as unintentional, then the matches may last even longer then they currently do. I believe that many of this criticism is to encourage women players to appear in a more traditional “lady-like” role by making less noise.
This noise will not deter me from the women’s finals at Wimbledon this weekend.