The Secret Of Winning A Tennis Match: Grunting

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Toru Hanai/ Reuters

Apart from the obvious hilariousness of tennis players grunting, it is also an issue of some contention. Some of the game’s top players, like Martina Navratilova, regard grunting as unfair, or even as cheating — and it seems they’re right. A study, which appeared in the Public Library of Science ONE journal, has shown that the loud grunts of some tennis player can give them a real advantage over opponents. The researchers from Canada and America showed that making “extraneous sound” could interfere with your opponent’s performance, making their responses both slower and less accurate. The report suggested that the grunt could also hamper a receiver who was trying to judge the spin and speed of a ball from the sound made off the racket.

The researchers tested 33 students at the University of British Columbia in western Canada. Hundreds of video clips of a player hitting a ball to either the left or the right were shown and the student had to determine the direction as quickly as they could. On shots where the player grunted the participants performed less well. Commenting on the effects of noise on a player, one of the report’s authors Scott Sinnett told the BBC, “They were basically slower and could actually be wrong-footed, if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court.” He went on to say, “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?” It may not be fair Mr Sinnett, but it sure is entertaining…

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