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Grunts Can Help Win Tennis Matches

October 3, 2010

According to a study published on Friday, tennis players who grunt loudly when hitting a ball appear to have a competitive edge over their opponents.

Canadian and American researchers said that the noise accompanying a hard shot makes an opponent slower to respond and more likely to misjudge exactly where the ball is, which makes it tougher to hit it back.

“Conservatively, our findings suggest that a tennis ball traveling 50 miles per hour could appear 24 inches 2 feet closer to the opponent than it actually is,” Scott Sinnett, an assistant at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told Reuters.

The researchers tested their theory in a laboratory at the University of British Columbia on students by using sounds that were comparable in volume to grunts of tennis stars.

The team published their results in the Public Library of Science ONE.

Sinnett and his colleagues said that there are different possible explanations for the reasons that grunting has an effect.

The researchers suggested that some professional tennis players try judging the spin and velocity of a ball from the sound it makes hitting a racket, so a grunt could help cover up those clues. 

Grunting is a controversial subject in tennis circles.  Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova said it was “cheating pure and simple.”

“The study raises a number of interesting questions for tennis. For example, if Rafael Nadal is grunting and Roger Federer is not, is that fair?” Sinnett told Reuters.

Sinnet said the team now hopes to look at whether the world’s top tennis players developed strategies to mitigate the effects of their opponents’ grunts.

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