Scream queens distract opponents, says Evert

Monica Seles

Screaming tennis players are a distraction for opponents and the current crop of female stars have taken the problem to new levels, US legend Chris Evert said here on Monday. Number eight seed Victoria Azarenka and Portuguese teenager Michelle Larcher de Brito have been at the centre of fevered debate at this year's Wimbledon about the decibel levels during matches. Now the International Tennis Federation is believed to be considering outlawing such distractions as "noise hindrance" under its code of conduct.

Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova believes the scream queens are gaining an unfair advantage and Evert, her one-time great rival, agrees with her. Evert, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles in the 1970s and 80s, said a particular concern was that the noise from grunters often appeared to increase on key shots. "Grunting is one thing but the shrill sound that you hear with players nowadays and especially (when) they get louder when they hit a winner, that's the thing that I observe as a player," said Evert, here with golfer husband Greg Norman. "It comes before they hit the shot. That's the first thing you hear and you are thrown off guard as a player and then before you know the ball gets past you.

"Really, the next time you watch say Maria Sharapova, the grunting is consistent but all of a sudden when she has a set up, she has a winner, the grunting gets louder. "That's a distraction to me because you are hearing a loud grunt before you see the shot. "Is it distracting for a player? Yes it is." Evert, 54, said tennis went through a similar problem with former world number one Monica Seles in the 1990s, but now it is more widespread.

"Because Monica Seles is such a lovely girl, we didn't want to rub it in too much," Evert said. "But it is distracting when you are hearing this and I think the grunts are getting louder and more shrill now with the current players. "I don't know how you measure it, I don't know what you do.

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