We all hear it regularly when we’re watching a tennis match; as a player hits the ball it’s often accompanied by a loud grunting noise. Some may also say they hear shrieking or screaming noise. It’s rare to watch a tennis match where both players are silent for the entirety of a match – but why?
Here’s a hilarious video with some ATP players guessing their rivals based on their grunts.
Unlike, bat-flipping in baseball or post goal celebrations in AFL, grunting in tennis has been shown to give the player responsible a definite advantage. There have been two separate studies of college players have found that the speed of their serves and ground-strokes increased by 4-5% when they groaned. The authors of both papers note that similar gains in performance have been observed in noisy weightlifters and martial artists.
The most likely cause is the extra tension created in the athlete’s core muscles by the grunt.
Nick Bolletieri has produced some of the best players in the world and also the best grunters. With the likes of Agassi, Sharapova and the Williams sisters coming through his academy. When asked about grunting in tennis he replied “I prefer to use the word ‘exhaling’. I think that if you look at other sports, weight lifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way.”
Some people have said that grunting is a way to put off your opponent as they can’t hear the sound of the ball as it leaves the racket, making it difficult to anticipate a ‘miss hit’.
Love it or hate it, grunting has become part of the norm in modern tennis. With the increased speed of play and shot power, it will continue to hang around.
Next time you’re on the court exhale whilst making contact you will feel an increase in power as well as be able to hear a small grunting noise.