While watching Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova play for the gold medal in London 2012, I noticed Williams was going about her business while Sharapova was grunting each time she hit the ball.

After doing some research, grunting in tennis dates back to 1962. Although men grunt, women draw more attention due to their high-pitched grunts. In addition, there is an initiative to eliminate excess grunts in the next generation of tennis players.

Another quote from said research says:

"I have not found in my 32 years anybody who says grunting or not grunting has an empirically positive or negative effect on performance -- it's all about belief system."

What is this "belief system?"

If grunting is not related to performance, why do tennis players do it excessively?


2 Answers 2


You should look at the question in the eyes of two sides who play the game. The first is the "Grunting" player and the second is his opponent.

From "Grunting" player side their coaches and trainers sometimes claim it helps a player's timing and physiological release of hitting the ball.

Nick Bollettieri, seen by many as the world's top tennis coach, and whose proteges include many of the noisiest players, says grunting is natural, not planned.

"I prefer to use the word 'exhaling'. I think that if you look at other sports, weightlifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way," says Bollettieri, speaking to the BBC News Magazine. "If you hold your lips tightly, you're not breathing and you become very tense and less flexible so you get tight more quickly

Louise Deeley, a sports psychologist at Roehampton University explain:

"The timing of when they actually grunt helps them with the rhythm of how they're hitting and how they're pacing things, It may be that their perception is that if they grunt, they are hitting it harder. It's going to give you confidence and a sense of being in control of your game."

And world class tennis players such as Serena Williams are not alone in their loud grunts. "When people are exercising on their own, they'll use things like how they breathe in and out as a rhythm, They may make similar kinds of noises to [the grunts]."

From other side it sometimes can affect opponent's performance.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova summed up the problem with grunting in a Sunday Times column last year:

"It affected my game because to me it is important to hear the ball hit the racket; you can hear a bad shot before you can see it and the sound is an imperative part of the game."

A recent study has shown that distracting noises during tennis games can affect an opponent's performance.

33 undergrad tennis players to view videos of a tennis shot being hit toward them and to quickly judge whether the ball would go to their left or right.

After measuring their response and accuracy when only hearing the sound of the ball on the racket, he then introduced an extraneous noise similar to a grunt at the instant the ball was struck. The students' response time and accuracy of direction prediction decreased significantly when the sound was included.

So to sum up I think most tennis players who grunt do it because players simply need to grunt as they swing, it’s probably more relevant to ask if it’s dramatized. Some players might exaggerate their grunts simply to surprise or throw off their opponent.


  • 1
    Interesting read. So, the importance of grunting relates to a natural release vs. inability for opponents to "hear" a shot?
    – user527
    Aug 5, 2012 at 21:31
  • 1
    @edmastermind29 something like this but it's more natural release vs destructing your opponent..
    – Dor Cohen
    Aug 6, 2012 at 7:29
  • 1
    For the record, I play golf often and have the ability to hit drives around 300 yards. I can honestly say that if I do "exhale," it's to myself and not at the distraction of my playing partners.
    – user527
    Aug 7, 2012 at 14:23

From my personal experience, it allows you to hit the ball harder and also masks the sound of the ball hitting the racquet so that your opponent can't judge the power and spin of the shot.


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