THE NEWSDESK: Serving up an end to Wimbledon grunting

GIVING IT SOME GRUNT: Maria Sharapova

GIVING IT SOME GRUNT: Maria Sharapova

First published in Columnists South Wales Argus: Photograph of the Author by

AH, THAT special time of year.

Strawberries, Pimm’s and grass so perfect it gives us lawn-envy.

And alongside the gentle thwack of ball on racquet, what appears to be the noise of a woman giving birth to a baby elephant.

When it comes to grunting at Wimbledon, the men are way behind now that Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi are out of the picture.

While Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams are making noises akin to Brian Blessed attempting to push a mountain through SW19, Federer, Djokovic and Nadal barely let out a whimper when they deliver their killer shots.

Although it is hardly a new phenomenon – it all seemed to start in the women’s game with Monica Seles – the Women’s Tennis Association is now looking into bringing in equipment which will measure the noise of said grunts and shrieks, and, presumably, impose some sort of penalty on those whose noises resemble a jet plane taking off.

Some über-grunters, such as world number one Sharapova can top 100 decibels. A lion’s roar is only 110.

“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” the WTA’s CEO, Stacey Allaster, said.

The WTA is looking at a handheld device for umpires to measure sound levels on the court.

The WTA’s players council and representatives of the International Tennis Federation and the four grand-slam events approved the crackdown at a meeting in Paris.

Players like Britain’s Laura Robson, who lost her first round match to world-class grunter Francesca Schiavone because she was outplayed by a former Grand Slam winner rather than distracted by her, say that if you can’t handle a little noise, you shouldn’t be on the court.

Fair enough. But the fans hate it with a passion.

The crackdown, however, won’t apply to the current generation.

After consultation with coaches, experts in sports science and top players, including Billie Jean King and Serena and Venus Williams, officials determined it would be unfair to force today’s grunters to change the way they play.

So expect anti-grunting coaches on the courts at youth tournaments soon, and maybe they could make a crowd-pleasing feature of the grunt-o-meter in the way they have of Hawkeye.

Can’t wait for the day when the crowd cheers a grunt just under the offending level – it could be like the old clap-o-meter in 70s talent shows.

And when it comes to penalising grunters, let’s make it more imaginative than having to play a let or having a point deducted. Make persistent grunters act as ball girls for a day.

Good for their self-control, and I would love to see US rude boy Andy Roddick barking the order “towel!” at Serena Williams as he did to some poor kid last week.


AMs to create own allotments?

ASSEMBLY Member Julie Morgan is calling for a vacant plot of land next to the Senedd to be turned into an allotment for members and staff.

The Cardiff North AM asked whether the assembly authorities had thought about developing the site, revealing she was already growing tomatoes on her office window sill in Cardiff Bay.

Speaking during questions in the Senedd, (aren’t you pleased with how our expensive Senedd time is being used?) Mrs Morgan asked whether the all-party assembly commission, which runs the estate, had considered negotiations with the owners of the land around the building “in order to develop food growing projects involving staff and assembly members?”

She suggested some sort of partnership with other organisations, including youth movement the Urdd.

In other words, someone else to do the hard work?

I am sure that the thousands on allotment waiting lists across Wales would love the chance to get their hands on a plot – I think AMs and staff should join the waiting list like the rest of us.

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