© Ella Ling

Victoria Azarenka

Australian Open diary - the grunting debate is back


Grunting has been the talk of the town here for a few days now – even a local shop owner quizzed me on the topic this morning, adding in one line that I can’t repeat here – and the crowd got in on the act during Victoria Azarenka’s quarter-final win over Agnieszka Radwanska by occasionally mimicking her during the points.

The Belarussian is one of the serial offenders and her elongated squeal has been likened to a ghost haunting a house, a balloon being deflated, or like she’s (rather enjoying) being spanked, as a (female) Guardian columnist put it a couple of years ago. That last one’s my favourite.

While Maria Sharapova’s grunt (more of a scream) is louder, Azarenka receives more bad press because hers lasts a good couple of seconds, almost until the opponent hits the ball. That’s cheating.

It can’t be fun for Azarenka to have the crowd humiliate her but it’s all water off a duck’s back for her, it seems. “I don’t think the crowd distracted me,” she said on court. “I love you guys, thanks a lot for being here.”

The WTA has admitted it knows grunting is a problem and as The Tennis Space revealed recently, the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida, often thought of as the home of grunting, has issued a document urging its players not to use “an unfair and unethical tactic”.

The letters pages of the Melbourne newspapers have been full of letters complaining about it but Azarenka was unrepentant again. “It’s the way I am, the way I play, the way I used to play when I was a kid,” she said.

Novak Djokovic has cut out a lot of the on-court joking over the last few years but he can still turn it on when he wants to.

After his win over Lleyton Hewitt in round four, the world number one revealed that he had taken a picture of his girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, and put it through FatApp, a programme that gives you a picture of what you might look like if your face was twice the size.

Novak joked that it was how she looked before going gluten-free and Jelena took it all very well, smiling along with the crowd as Novak did his thing.

But we hope her sense of humour stretches to seeing it on the internet after the defending champion posted this photo.

Here’s what she really looks like:

The weather here has been set fair for the past few days, with searing temperatures making things tough for everyone concerned. But don’t be surprised if we see a rainbow over Margaret Court Arena on Friday.

The 24-times grand slam champion created a stir for her comments opposing gay marriage, prompting criticism from the tournament, fellow players and past players including Martina Navratilova.

British teenager Laura Robson wore a rainbow hairband in her first-round match and though the 18-year-old has returned home to prepare for the Fed Cup, there is a bigger, more organised protest planned for Friday. Court, an Australian hero due to her achievements but not for her born-again Christian beliefs, which have caused the tournament to distance itself from one of its true stars.

  • Greatviews

    It’s easy to get rid of grunting in tennis, just ban it.  They never used to do it and not everyone does.  It’s childish.  When those women play I just turn off the TV.  Can’t be bothered watching with that noise.  I know many others who do the same.  If they won’t stop even with all the feedback, then maybe the TV channels will get them to, when their ratings drop away!

  • LoveTennis

    I do understand that grunting is a part of some players’ game.
    But the REALLY loud and long grunts… it’s distracting and it masks the sound of the ball off the racquet strings. The really bad shriekers don’t seem to do it on the practice courts, and they seem to turn it off abruptly when a shot hits the net. Highly suspicious.
    For some reason the players seem to have a “code” not to complain. Or perhaps it just bothers them less.
    Treat it the same as any unsportsmanlike behaviour: warning, point, game all the way to match.
    For that matter, the same should be applied to players that take unnecessarily long between points. I’m a huge fan of Rafa, but he’s way too slow between points when he is serving. I don’t think it’s intentional, but it’s an unfair advantage given his style of play.
    That’s my rant for the day. :)