A study carried out by Canadian and American researchers have determined that loud and excessive grunting noises from tennis stars actually gives those players an edge over their opponents.
Martina Navratilova has always regarded grunting as a little unfair and often claims it as cheating as reported in BBC US & Canada. Tests carried out by the researchers showed that "extraneous sound interfered with participants' performance, making their responses both slower and less accurate". Amongst the worst offenders are Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal.
The study results, which appears in the Public Library of Science ONE journal tested 33 students at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. The students were shown videos of tennis players firing off a volley to the left or the right and had to very quickly determine which direction it was headed for, some shots were accompanied by loud grunting, others were not. It showed that where an accompanying grunt or excessive noise was present the students' reaction time was slower.
Author of the study Scott Sinnett said:
The findings were unequivocal. Basically, when the video clips did have a grunt, the participants were not only slower to react but they had lower accuracy levels. So they were basically slower and could actually be wrong-footed, if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court.
The report said the grunt could also deceive a receiver who was trying to judge the spin and speed of a ball from the sound made off the racket. Mr Sinnett summarised with:
The study raises a number of interesting questions for tennis. For example, if Rafael Nadal is grunting and Roger Federer is not, is that fair?
Maria Sharapova once broke her own record with the loudest grunt on court. Recorded at an ear splitting 101.2 decibels, almost as loud as a police siren.