Courtside

06.22.11

Tennis Ladies Who Grunt

With the 2012 Wimbleton tournament underway, the WTA has announced it will begin using a hand-held measuring device to crackdown on players who shriek and grunt when they hit the ball. Watch our countdown of the six loudest scream queens in the game.

 6. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki

In June, a Wimbledon official criticized female players for their vociferous howls on the court, but there's been no sign of the athletes quieting down. The criticism apparently fell on deaf ears at the U.S. Open, where Svetlana Kuznetsova and Caroline Wozniacki might as well have been competing for loudest grunt when they faced off Monday. Wozniacki doesn't approve of grunting, but that didn't stop her from making noise. "I think it's bothering ... Small grunts, that's fine, but it's just when it's really, really loud, you can hear it outside the court," she told Metro in 2009. The Danish player might have won the match, but Wozniacki's and Kutznetsova's grunts were virtually indistinguishable. We'll call it a draw.

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5. Serena Williams

Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, told The Daily Telegraph in June that female players grunt too loudly at Wimbledon. One player who might disagree is former world No. 1-ranked Serena Williams. The younger of the Williams duo told The First Post in 2009 that grunting was no big deal: "I just play my game, and sometimes I grunt and sometimes I don't. I'm not conscious when I’m doing it … It doesn't really affect me.” Williams’s emphatic grunt makes the tennis prodigy sound as if she’s exerting a lot of effort, but is only worth the No. 5 spot on our list when it comes to volume and originality.

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4. Elena Bovina

Given that she's 6 foot 2, Bovina’s scratchy grunt might qualify as more of a banshee’s roar. The Russian player was dubbed one of the “loudest grunters” by MSN, which also reported that her grumble reached a respectable 81 decibels. Bovina’s grunt might be an alto in a sea of sopranos, but what it lacks in pitch it more than makes up for in force.

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3. Victoria Azarenka

The Belarussian player’s grunt—a cross between a sneeze and a chirp—registered at 95 decibels at this year’s Wimbledon match, just missing the 105-decibel record held by Maria Sharapova. In this video, the world No. 5-ranked player makes the grunt of opponent Serena Williams sound like a whisper compared with her distinguished howls.

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2. Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova didn’t just upset Serena Williams with her game on the court—she put the tennis vet’s grunt to shame when she set the record for loudest bellow. At 105 decibels, Sharapova’s 2009 record was called a “pneumatic drill” by The Telegraph and has been untouched since. Listen to the yelp that falls just five decibels short of a motorcycle.

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1. Michelle Larcher de Brito

The Portuguese athlete might be the youngest of the players who have come under fire for their cacophonous bellows, but she’s hardly a stranger to criticism. In 2009, Larcher de Brito’s cries sent opponent Aravane Rezai reeling so much that she complained to the umpire at the French Open. Despite fielding criticism from other players and officials alike, Larcher de Brito told Reuters in 2009 that she has no intention of quieting down. “If they have to fine me, go ahead, because I'd rather get fined than lose a match because I had to stop grunting,” she said. With her trademark high-pitched shriek, Larcher de Brito may be the ultimate scream queen on the court.

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