Game, Set and Minimize: How to Turn Down the Sound of Wimbledon Grunting

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Maria Sharapova returns the ball to German player Sabine Lisicki during the women's semi final at Wimbledon, on June 30, 2011.

Harrumph! Arrrgh! Is that the sound of tennis players grunting their way through points — or viewers frustrated with the noises being made? Either way, a solution has arrived.

BBC radio has unveiled a program to allow listeners to minimize the sound of on-court grunting. Called Wimbledon Net Mix, it lets you fade out the sound of the players making, er, their feelings known, and turning up the volume of the commentators instead.

Rupert Brun, head of technology for the BBC’s Audio and Music department, said this was a direct result of receiving pretty blunt feedback from listeners. “The BBC receives lots of complaints from the public regarding sound balance – with many of them wanting the sound of the commentators turned up and the noise for a match turned down,” he said. “Wimbledon was a clear choice to launch this product for as there are always so many comments about the amount of grunting from the players.”

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For now, Net Mix only allows listeners to vary the sound during live coverage of center court matches. This tool was created in partnership with Fraunhofer, a German technology company, who did not charge the BBC for the development (full disclosure: I worked for BBC Sport for many years, including on Wimbledon).

The worst offender, according to the record books, is Russian ace Maria Sharapova, who is favored to win her second Wimbledon title on Saturday when she takes on Petra Kvitova. She once grunted at an ear-piercing 105 decibels in 2009 (one hopes she won the point). The good news for weary listeners is that the final, naturally, will take place on centre court. The bad news is how do they cope during the other 50 weeks of the year? (Via Yahoo!)

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