(Eds: With AP Photos.)By MICHAEL CASEYAP Sports Writer
Victoria Azarenka isn’t about to stop her hooting and believes the ruckus about the noises players make during matches is a big fuss about nothing.
The top-ranked Belarusian drew attention during her run to the Australian Open title for the high-pitched sound she makes when she hits the ball, with some fans at Rod Laver Arena even mimicking the noise that sounds like a hooting owl.
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”It will be with me for my entire career. But let me put it this way: do you snore?” Azarenka asked one reporter on Sunday after winning the Qatar Open. ”Can you control that? … There are ways but you still snore. Right? So it’s natural to you, right? So that’s natural to me, too. The way I play tennis. That’s it.”
The issue has attracted the attention of the WTA. The governing body of women’s tennis plans to look at ways of reducing the noise levels made by players, an issue it says has become ”bothersome” for supporters.
Currently, the umpire can penalize a player for ”a deliberate act” of hindrance, but the rule is rarely enforced for grunting.
In the midst of a 17-game winning streak, Azarenka said the noise she makes started as a way to give her extra power. The woman she beat to win the Australian Open, Maria Sharapova, grunts loudly when hitting the ball.
The 22-year-old Azarenka said the issue is overblown, insisting no other player has taken her to task over it.
”I’m not the one who’s going to stop it. I’m not looking for that. For me, I’m the way I am,” she said.
”I cannot speak for any other players. Not one player ever came up to me and said, `Hey, stop doing that,”’ she said. ”If somebody wants to blame: `Oh, I lost this match because she’s grunting or whatever.’ You know, it’s up to them. I think they’re just weak people.”
Several players have complained about the practice, though no one has singled out Azarenka.
Caroline Wozniacki, whom Azarenka replaced at No. 1, said in October that she thought ”there are some players who do it on purpose.”
Sixth-ranked Agnieszka Radwanska said at the Australian Open that she was used to Azarenka’s hooting but felt Sharapova’s grunts are too loud.
”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?”
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