By Nick Thomas
Fans of professional tennis will be glued to their TV sets from May 27 to June 10 to watch the French Open. But if you plan on viewing some of women’s matches, just go ahead and plunge a screwdriver through your eardrums right now. You’ll thank me later.
That’s because nowadays, some of these matches are almost unbearable to watch – or at least listen to – since many of the top female tennis players can't hit a ball without screeching and squawking their way through every ear-shattering point.
Their relentless auditory assault on tennis fans makes the wails of midnight neighborhood cat fights seem positively melodic by comparison. The worst offenders include top players Maria Sharapova and current world number one, Victoria Azarenka.
In fact, Sharapova holds the current noise record and has been measured at 105 decibels. A pneumatic drill is 130. It makes you wonder about her vocal outburst in other pursuits. I mean, could anyone ever play chess with this woman? You’d probably keel over from a heart attack if she ever castled.
As for the Azarenka yelp, her "aye-whooo-aye-whooo-aye-whooo" has to be heard to be believed. She claims it’s “a natural part of her breathing system,” but it sounds more like a struggling, asthmatic dolphin trapped in a fish net.
Serena Williams is another tennis scream queen. She was runner-up in the 2011 US Open, but was remarkably quiet compared to her past on-court trilling. However, she upped her annoyance factor by throwing a massive temper tantrum last year (not the first) when a call didn’t go her way (and was later fined $2,000 for verbal umpire abuse). I suspect even many Americans were glad that classy (and quiet) Aussie Samantha Stosur nailed Williams in last year’s US Open.
Of course, some of the men grunt and groan with each shot too, but it is rarely the loud, ear-piercing, annoying shrill that the women force upon us. But not all the women have earplug-worthy battle cries. Former world number one player Caroline Wozniacki has a rather subdued grunt, like a high pitched hiccup, although she can crank up the decibels when a match gets tough.
Along these lines, let's not forget charismatic Italian player Francesca Schiavone. While not necessarily shrill, her tennis shriek is incredibly annoying and sounds like someone is performing the Heimlich Maneuver on her every few seconds.
I live in hope that the US Tennis Association will one day do something about this situation. But I’m not holding my breath. They make a living off these tennis players, and aren’t likely to rile them any time soon. In the meantime, I still plan on watching the televised French Open matches with my finger poised on the remote mute button.
Perhaps former Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova said it best: "They are making sounds like they are lifting 300 pounds…. the ball is not that heavy.”
Nick Thomas has written for more than 180 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Christian Science Monitor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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