WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon has said that he has no plans to outlaw grunting in the game. Speaking to the press in Miami, Simon downplayed an issue that has bugged women’s tennis for the past decade.
“If it becomes a hindrance then obviously there are rules that address that,” Simon said.
“The mics on court are picking it up,” he continued. “I don’t think it’s as strong as a few years ago – there are fewer players grunting.”
The WTA rule book currently states:
Any continual distraction of regular play, such as grunting, shall be dealt with in accordance with the Hindrance Rule.
At the umpire’s discretion, a deliberate hindrance (such as grunting) could be penalised by the loss of a point. However, this rule is rarely – if ever – enforced, and would undoubtedly be met with significant controversy.
Simon’s stance appears to be at odds with his predecessor Stacey Allaster. Prior to leaving the organisation in 2015, Allaster acknowledged that the WTA had a problem with grunting, and that the sport needed to do something to address it.
“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” Allaster told USA Today as part of a wide-ranging interview.
At that time, Allaster outlined a program to educate younger players about developing their games without grunting. There was also talk about on-court technology that would help umpires determine whether players were grunting excessively.
Maria Sharapova, who will return to the WTA in late April, has the loudest recorded grunt in the women’s game: 101 decibels. That is, apparently, the equivalent of a fast jet flyover at 1000ft.
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