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How the Grinch Stole Wimbledon

To quote one of my favorite authors: “Oh the noise, noise, noise, noise.”You know there is a problem when the tennis commentators in advance of the semifinals of the world’s most iconic major tennis tournament are talking about the decibel level of player grunting.

According to ESPN, Maria Sharapova has reached 100 decibels (slightly under a chain saw), and Victoria Azarenka 90 decibels (lawnmower, which is appropriate I guess since Wimbledon is played on grass).

Having been a follower of women’s tennis, I have almost gotten used to the soundtrack of assorted noises that punctuate the points, particularly on the ladies side. But I must admit the new whooping tendency really gets on my nerves, as apparently it does on commentators and the All England Club.

The Wimbledon folks apparently asked nicely if the ladies could tone it down, but they can’t be expected to immediately break habits developed over years at the cost of throwing off their game, and as either Pam Shriver or Mary Joe Fernandez pointed out, teh de-programming probably has to start in juniors.

For the sake of the sport, it needs to.

Listening to Azarenka play her way to the semifinals was like listening to the “woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo-woo” (I think that is the right number of “woos.”) from Curly of the Three Stooges on an endless loop. I can turn the sound off, but I like to hear the TV commentary.

Since without the audience, most of which is on TV, there would be no pro tennis circuit to develop and compensate all these great players, perhaps the next time a rights deal comes up, there could be some subtle mention of the need to tone down the grunts and whoops.

Or how about a public service campaign led by the Tennis Channel.

It may be the best thing for fans of women’s tennis of both Sharapova and Azarenka make the finals because it will put a spotlight–or more appropriately a microphone–on their combined grunting and whooping.

Ironically, during the semifinal match between Azarenka and Petra Kvitova, play was stopped momentarily as the players appeared to be distracted by the incessant noise from an errant fire alarm. Join the club.

There was one upside to the whooping in this match. I was watching on a small TV while writing this. Both players were dressed in white with white headbands. Since Kvitova plays without a noisemaker, I could at least always tell who was who.