Tennis

WTA exploring how to reduce grunting

Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova's shriek is ''pretty annoying,'' according to one of her rivals.
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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

Maria Sharapova's shriek when she hits the ball is ''pretty annoying'' and ''just too loud,'' according to one of her rivals.

No. 8-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska spoke out on Tuesday at the Australian Open after her loss to Victoria Azarenka, whose high-pitched hoot has also attracted plenty of criticism.

The WTA, which runs the tour, said it is looking at ways to reduce grunting. Currently, the umpire can penalize a player for ''a deliberate act'' of hindrance but the rule is rarely enforced when it comes to grunting.

''Of course everybody can make some noise. This is tennis,'' Radwanska said. ''But I think it's just too loud. I don't think it's very necessary to scream that loud. So if they (the WTA) want to do something, why not?''

During Azarenka's matches in Melbourne, some people in the crowd have been mimicking the unusual sound she makes. Host broadcaster Channel 7 has what it calls a ''Whoo! Meter,'' which registered the sound at 91.4 decibels on Tuesday.

Grunting in women's tennis has been an issue as far back as the heyday of Monica Seles in the 1990s. No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki said in October she thought ''there are some players who do it on purpose.''

The WTA issued a statement Tuesday, saying it is ''aware that some fans find it bothersome.''

''We are currently in the process of exploring how to reduce excessive grunting, especially for younger players just starting out, without adversely affecting players who have developed their game under the current training, rules and procedures,'' the statement said. ''We do believe that we need to address the concerns expressed by some fans and take a careful look at our rules and education policies.''

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Radwanska said she was used to the noise from Azarenka, but added: ''About Maria (Sharapova), I mean, what can I say? For sure that is pretty annoying and it's just too loud.''

Azarenka, through to her first Australian Open semifinal, said she started grunting when she was growing up and needed extra power to hit her shots.

The 22-year-old Belarusian said she didn't think she and Sharapova ''are the only players who actually grunt.''

''I cannot speak for any others. I only speak for myself,'' she said. It's the way I am, the way I play.

''If you want to a little bit more on insight, I think it's the way that made me breathe, made me move. It's part of my movement.''

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SOUTHPAW SUCCESS: Ekaterina Makarova's shock win over Serena Williams on Monday means there are two lefthanders in the women's quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time since 1989.

Makarova joined fellow southpaw Petra Kvitova, who beat Ana Ivanovic in straight sets earlier in the day.

''Being a lefty, I think it's great advantage, because we don't face so many players playing left hand, and obviously ball spins differently,'' Ivanovic said.

The last time two lefties reached the Australian Open quarterfinals came in 1989 when Martina Navratilova and Belinda Cordwell featured.

Kvitova last year became the first lefthander to win Wimbledon since Navratilova 21 years earlier. Depending on results here, she could become the first lefty to hold the No. 1 ranking since Monica Seles in 1996.

The little-known Makarova has beaten the in-form Kaia Kanepi, seventh-seeded Vera Zvonareva and 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams in successive matches to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

On the men's side, Rafael Nadal is the only lefthander to reach the last eight - although he does everything else righthanded. His coach Toni Nadal, also his uncle, told a coaching conference before the tournament that it wasn't true he had forced his nephew to play with his left hand so he would have an advantage over his rivals.

''I am not so intelligent, I thought he was lefthanded, now I know he is righthanded,'' he said.

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