Monica Seles, the woman who inspired the ‘grunt-ometer’, has told The Tennis Space that Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova and other modern players must quieten down “if the fans demand there is no grunting”. “The bottom line is that players are paid to do this, you’re there to entertain the fans and make sure that the fans get the most enjoyment,” the former world number said in an exclusive interview. Seles suggested that Azarenka and Sharapova must be true to themselves, as only they will know whether they are grunting to “upset an opponent”.
With your experience of grunting controversies, what is your take on Azarenka and Sharapova? What should be done about grunting?
“Whatever the authorities decide is fine by me. I never grunted on purpose. I grunted from the age of eight. I grunted when I was ranked 83 in the world. I grunted when I was number one in the world. I know that I played my heart out. That was my style of play. I can only speak for myself. I gave everything on every ball. If you look back at footage of me, when I was 12 or 14, I was grunting against the same players. But when I became number one, then it became an issue. Whatever the WTA decide about grunting, that’s the rule.”
Do you have any advice for Azarenka and Sharapova?
“All you can do as a tennis player when you go out there is to focus on yourself. You play opponents who bounce the ball 50 times before they serve, or take much longer between points than they should do, or take injury time-outs. Whatever happens, you have to be true to yourself. As long as you’re not grunting to upset an opponent, it’s okay. Whatever the authorities decide, you have to go with. The same as Wimbledon deciding that you have to wear all white – so the players play in all white. Whatever the rule is about grunting, the bottom line is that the players are paid to do this. You’re there to entertain the fans and to make sure that the fans get the most enjoyment. If the fans demand no grunting, then you have to play with no grunting. If the fans demand grunting, then you play with grunting.”
Monica Seles was speaking at the Laureus Sports Awards in London.