Ian Ritchie, Wimbledon’s outgoing chief executive, has told The Tennis Space that grunting “is not an attractive thing” and risks spoiling the sport as an “entertainment spectacle”.
In an exclusive interview, Ritchie said he was pleased that grunting had been on the news agenda at the Australian Open, where Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova contested the loudest ever grand slam final, as that should encourage women’s tennis to address the problem. Ritchie urged grunters’ opponents to take a stand and to complain to the umpire about the noise.
How much of a problem is grunting?
“I wasn’t in Melbourne but I was interested that there was more traction about this issue. What I would I say, and the WTA know this and [the chairman and chief executive] Stacey Allaster is receptive to this, is that although there is a professional element, it’s still an entertainment spectacle, and it’s putting the fans off. The view from the fans, whether they’re watching on TV or in the flesh, is that they don’t like it, that it does put them off. It’s very difficult to expect a player who has been brought up like that, trained on that, to stop. The idea of training and educating the younger players is the right route to take. It’s not just a Wimbledon issue. People in Australia clearly think this is an issue too. I would hope that they will try to address it because it’s not an attractive thing for the spectators.”
Do the the rules needs to be changed?
“There’s a rule in existence. It’s rarely enforced. It’s enforceable by the opponent. This isn’t just in the hands of the umpire. If a player feels affected by it, they can complain to the umpire. If you talk to the WTA, they say that in their meetings the players say that they don’t find it off-putting or something they have a problem with. It doesn’t seem to be a problem with the players. But then it’s a question of the spectators. And you have to bear in mind that the whole point is to entertain spectators and get them to come. If they find it off-putting, it should be raised in discussion. I raised it a lot last year, and I think it’s good that it’s come up again. There seems to be a recognition that it needs to be addressed.”