Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka and tennis' noise pollution problem

Is grunting slowing the growth of the tennis audience?
Aitor Alcalde/GettyImages

This might come across like a "get off my lawn" article and I understand that. But I am not the only one who seems to enjoy matches less when there is the constant grunts of players hitting a tennis ball. Most players don't make a loud noise when they strike the ball, but some high-level players do. There is rarely a positive reaction from fans about all the noise pollution.

This seems to be a new problem as well. Maybe because of newer technology players such as Aryna Sabalenka and Carlos Alcaraz hit the ball much harder than players such as Chris Evert and John McEnroe did. A game once played with touch and style has become a lot more about power.

The problem with loud grunting, though, might be complicated. Non-tennis fans seem to mock the noise. Tennis fans may many times find watching a match on TV less desirable when attention is taken away from one of Carlos Alcaraz's fantastic cross-court shots when that offers a short reprieve from the groaning Alcaraz does as if he is lifting a 100-pound weight.

The grunting from players such as Carlos Alcaraz and Aryna Sabalenka has to go

Is grunting needed or is it a way of trying to somehow disrupt an opponent? To be sure, constant grunting does take some effort so one might wonder if Aryna Sabalenka, one of the louder grunters on the WTA tour, overall has less stamina than someone like Iga Swiatek. Just a theory that no one seems to have done a study on.

Players can be disciplined for making loud noises. Novak Djokovic, normally not one who belches out loud grunts when he hits a ball, was penalized during his Wimbledon match against Jannik Sinner in 2023. While the discipline was likely correct if one goes by the United States Tennis Association rule book which states, "A player should avoid grunting and making other loud noises...Only an official may rule that these actions are hindrances and order that a let be played or a loss of point, depending on whether an official had previously warned the offending player."

And that is part of the problem. While Sabalenka and Alcaraz are unlikely to be penalized for grunting because they make the noises all the time, other players who might grunt on occasion could be penalized because the chair umpire does not expect it. It is unfair much the same way Sabalenka gets louder many times late in tight matches. Her loudness appears to be an intentional attempt to disrupt the other player.

But we don't really need all the noise, do we? Tennis is a beautiful sport played a high amount of athleticism. We don't really need tennis with a dose of AC/DC at the same time.

Read more from Lob and Smash