As a tennis fan, it’s impossible for me to watch a single game of tennis without having someone else moaning and asking me “do they really have to make that noise when they hit the ball”. It troubles me since when a Ferrari is driven at 130 mph, nobody asks why the Ferrari makes that noise, but when a human being strikes a tennis ball at 130 mph, it must apparently be done in complete silence.
Fortunately for me, in addition to my aforementioned hypothesis, I now have more scientific reasons to justify grunting.
Researchers in America recently took some pretty good tennis players, hooked them up with some patches that measure muscle force, and let them serve and strike the ball with a natural grunt, and then asked them to do it in silence.
Whatever the players own personal views on grunting, whether they usually grunted or not, and how good they actually were at tennis, players who were allowed to grunt had significantly better muscle activation which allowed them to produce faster and more powerful tennis shots compared to when they weren’t allowed to grunt.
Whether this is an actual result of grunting, or the act of trying not to grunt being distracting, the outcome is simple enough. Asking tennis players to turn down the decibels will only make for a poorer game, and who camped on a street in London for 5 days to see that?
Faye Prior (Researcher)
O’Connell et al., (2014). The Effects of “Grunting” on Serve and Forehand Velocity in Collegiate Tennis Players. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, publish ahead of print June 30.