GOOD

All The Racquet: What Science Tells Us About The Pros And Cons Of Grunting In Tennis

Grunting in tennis can be performance-enhancing for the grunter and performance-hindering for their opponent.

One of tennis’ perennial debates has ignited early at this year’s Australian Open, after Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka was accused of grunting too loudly during her first-round loss to Australian Ash Barty.


In the past, former world number one Martina Navratilova has gone so far as to suggest grunting is cheating. She argues it may hamper an opponent’s capacity to hear the ball striking the racquet, which is an important element of shot preparation. But what does science have to say?

There are two aspects to grunting and tennis performance that have generated research interest.

  • First, grunting has been investigated from the perspective of an opposition player, who may find it detrimental to their performance as it interferes with how they are able to process information during shot preparation.

  • Second, the influence of grunting on the performance of the grunters themselves has also been considered as it relates to their hitting performance.

In both instances, grunting could be considered performance-enhancing for the grunter and performance-hindering for their opponent.

Does Grunting Negatively Affect An Opponent?

There has been some preliminary experimental work that showed grunting may mask important auditory information used by an opponent.

Participants in a study were asked to watch video clips of a professional tennis player striking the ball with or without an accompanying auditory stimulus (a grunt). Their task was to determine as quickly and accurately as possible whether the ball was being hit to their left or right side. Results revealed the grunt did impair the speed and accuracy of their directional decision-making.

Taking the results from the lab onto the court, it has been suggested that the 30-millisecond delay in responding when an additional auditory stimulus is present would mean a typical rally shot would be picked up two feet later, relative to when no grunt is present.

This means more time pressure on the opponent and less preparation time, which is certainly not advantageous to their performance.

How a grunt impairs performance is less clear. As anecdotally suggested by many professional players, a well-timed grunt can mask important auditory information used by a player as the racquet strikes the ball. Another suggestion is that a grunt could draw a player’s attention away from the sound of racquet-ball contact to the actual grunt, which in turn may impair their timing.

Finally, a grunt may draw visual attention away from the processing of the visual information conveyed at racquet-ball contact. There is currently no clear evidence to support any of these suggestions.

Does Grunting Enhance Hitting Performance?

When the impact of a grunt is investigated, there is evidence that hitting performance is enhanced. Skilled university tennis players were found to hit with a 3.8% increase in groundstroke hitting velocity when they grunted.

For a serve, a 4.9% enhancement in velocity was found among players who grunted. This translated to “grunted serves” being hit 7km/hr faster than those that were not.

While the increase in hitting velocity came at no additional physiological cost, in relation to perception of effort and energy consumption, there was an increase in force production as measured by muscular activity. Overall this suggests that grunting is performance-enhancing, and is a sustainable strategy over the course of a match.

Do we have to continue to put up with grunting at the tennis?

First, it’s important to note that it’s quite natural to grunt when exerting the type of effort that tennis players do during a match. As many spectators will attest, the grunting can go up a level as a rally drags on. But when is the grunting excessive and seemingly more for dramatic effect than in response to exertion?

It’s true that not all grunts are the same, and it’s on these occasions — during crucial points — where grunting may inhibit an opponent’s performance.

While Barty claimed Sabalenka’s grunting wasn’t a distraction and she can deal with it (and clearly did, given she won), would players would continue to be so charitable if they knew they were losing precious preparation time on each stroke?

Sadly, the science is not yet in on what’s a fair grunt. But equally, given the amount of successful players who are known “grunters” — often-cited culprits include Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Rafael Nadal — a resolution is probably some time off.

Sports
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health