On a Sunday afternoon, on a cool September day, there is nothing quite as enjoyable as watching a Tennis match. I’ve always enjoyed individual sports more than team sports (other than Baseball). I’ve often watched Tennis players like Roddick, Agasi, Nadal, Federer and others, and truly enjoyed it. Back in the day I used to like watching Chris Evert play. It was beautiful, graceful, and yes, powerful.
This past Sunday, September 9, 2012, I happen to be channel surfing and came upon the US Open women’s final. Williams and Azarenka. It was almost over. Not the match so much (although it applies to that as well) but my interst in watching was over before it really got started. To listen to Azarenka play tennis was like listening to a group of Muslim woman at a wedding. She was wailing and ululating on each and every movement, so loud and distracting that I just couldn’t do it. I had to change the channel. I didn’t care who won at that point. I realized that all of these years, while “grunting” has been a bone of contention in the sport, it was the grunting that prevented me from watching.
While some male tennis players do grunt, it’s really the women who have turned it into an art form. Starting with Monica Seles, whose extreme grunting made ME want to stab her, it’s just gotten worse. Now the World Tennis Association (WTA) is considering cracking down on it. They want to start young tennis players out, learning how to play the game without the gruning. I say – More Power to ‘Em, the WTA, I mean. Detracters want to “grandfather” current tennis players from the rule, citing that the change would affect a trained athlete’s game and that’s not fair.
It’s not just that the grunting (and in Azarenka’s case, wailing) is distracting, it’s annoying and makes tennis unwatchable. It’s unnecessary, undisciplined, and to be honest, tacky and rude. It sounds like they are constipated and trying to squeeze out a log right there on the court. It’s disgusting.
But Azarenka takes it to a new level. I had never heard anyting like it before. I was only half paying attention when I was channel surfing. As soon as I heard the ululating wail, I had a flash back to 9/11 and the pictures of people ululating in the streets of many Middle Eastern countries, celebrating the carnage. When I looked up and saw it was a simple women’s tennis match, I was quite literally shell-shocked. I was shocked that this is what women’s tennis has turned into. I was shocked that this was allowed. I was shocked that this woman wasn’t embarassed for herself, I was shocked that the TV network didn’t bleep it out (because it’s as offensive as if she screamed “FUCK” every time she hit the ball.
Azarenka doesn’t belong in this sport, or any other sport, except maybe Olympic Weight Lifting. But even that sport doesn’t allow excessive grunting. And these men are dead lifting more than their own body weight – they should be allowed to grunt.
But what Azarenka is doing isn’t grunting. It is wailing and it’s meant to distract her opponent. It would be the same if Azarenka paid someone to lob tennis balls at Serena Williams from the side lines while Williams is about to return a serve. I don’t know how this got so out of control. There’s a thing called “sportsmanship”. Wailing like a banshee at every turn isn’t sportsmanlike and I have to believe that the TV ratings for women’s tennis take a hit because of it. In our society, the only thing that speaks is the almighty dollor. So let’s stop tuning in to women’s tennis until it stops sounding like a delivery room during a breached birth.