With Wimbledon upon on us, we’re set to be served up a feast of top level tennis, accompanied not just by strawberries and cream, but by some of the loudest female grunting this side of the San Pornando Valley. Martina Navratilova called for grunting to be stamped out of women’s tennis – the former World No.1 describing it as “cheating pure and simple” – but if anything the grunts are getting louder. And more orgasmic. Let’s see who’s leading the list of those dishing out the decibel damage, distracting already overheated audiences and opponents in equal measure. Insert ear plugs.
10. Elena Dementieva
Elena Dementieva has been accused of throwing opponents off with her yelp – a “wha-unhhh” that rises from a sharp cry in typical rallies to a screeching crescendo when the pressure tells. The current World No.5 is one of several hot Russian blonds on our list, and while her bedroom noise levels fall at the more socially acceptable end of the range, three years ago she was said to belong to the big league of female grunters, peaking at 95.3db. Strange then that she once slated the volume of compatriot grunter Maria Sharapova following a 2006 Wimbledon quarter-finals loss. Bad loser or grunter’s envy?
Decibel reading: 73
9. Kim Clijsters
Another women’s tennis star who’s been known to let her “ooohs”, “aaahs” and “eeeaahhs-urrrrrrs” get the better of her, Kim Clijster’s grunt only becomes apparent those times she applies herself particularly hard to her strokes. I say. When the Belgian comeback kid is on song, her timbre is characterized by a low guttural sound as she strikes the ball with especial gusto. Currently ranked No.9 in both the World and grunting rankings, the 27-year-old mother may not be a flashy, grunting teenager she once was, but she’s still making a decent fist of it with her suggestive sound pollution.
Decibel reading: 75
8. Anna Kournikova
Anna Kournikova is a special case. For one, she’s as much known as a smoking hot model as she is a tennis player – and everyone agrees she’s babalicious beyond. Does this make her grunting frolics more excusable? We’re going to stick our necks out here and say, yes we think it does. The Russian superstar, now retired from tennis, is said to have let out a more genuine – if scarcely less ear-splitting – grunt, and only when exerted; compare the more contrived shrieks of some of her peers. To be honest, though, in your case, Anna, we wouldn’t mind whether you were faking it or not.
Decibel reading: 78.5
7. Elena Bovina
With a sneeze-like groan that’s loud if not quite deafening, Elena Bovina could be seen as something of a journeyman grunter on the women’s tour. Still, if noises like hers were emanating from the honeymoon suite next door to your hotel room, you might be tempted to complain… or worse. The former World No.14 makes a sound that’s been interpreted as erotic by some ears in need of cleaning, though the strapping 6′2″ Russian’s penetrating bellow has been said to distress some witnesses. Apparently, she generates decibel levels similar to a pneumatic tool from 15 metres. That’s quite some din.
Decibel reading: 81
6. Victoria Azarenka
Victoria Azarenka’s piercing cry might lead daydreamers to believe they are in a Central American rainforest, so much like howler monkeys on heat do they sound. The girl from Belarus emits a short, high pitched noise that’s been dubbed ”terrifying” and “alarming”, and she’s one of those at the centre of the grunting debate today. Azarenka has called for people to “respect all the players who grunt, which are about 70% of the whole tour,” after the crowd mimicked her “woo-woo” wails during a second round victory in Wimbledon last year. That’s right kids – respect the grunt.
Decibel reading: 83.5
5. Venus Williams
Only just quieter than her younger sibling, Venus Williams has a grunt verging on a scream. High-pitched and topped off with a trill, is this is a groan of angst… or ecstasy? While many find the noise upsetting – reminiscent of an animal in distress – Venus might actually be said to have a grunt that chimes with her love goddess’ name. Either way, the World No.2 is one of the more notable grunters of our time. Though never penalised for her grunting misdemeanors, she did feature in a memorable 2007 gruntathon with Maria Sharapova which set commentators sniggering. Verdict: orgasmic.
Decibel reading: 85
4. Serena Williams
Closely matched with Venus in the grunting stakes as is in everything else, Serena is bequeathed with a more masculine rumble than her sister. Forceful and deep, but at times higher pitched when she is excited, the current world No.1’s grunt is the sort that might startle spectators as well as challengers. She claims she’s “not conscious” when she’s doing it and that other players grunting “doesn’t really affect” her. The sometime model permitted a bit of flirtatious banter with British chat show host Jonathan Ross when teased with repeated recordings of her on-court antics. Saucy if not serene.
Decibel reading: 88.9
3. Monica Seles
Widely credited as the original female grunter, Monica Seles singlehandedly inspired the Centre Court ‘grunt-o-meter’, used by British newspapers covering Wimbledon when the svelte Yugoslav first began grunting her way through matches. Notable for the double-bang quality of her grunt – a moan followed by a louder, shriller groan – Seles got all the noise complaints in the 90s. Famously, after the threat of a fine, she clammed up for her 1992 final with Stefi Graf – a match she was promptly thrashed in. She now regrets this, and grunters these days are more reluctant to contain themselves.
Decibel reading: 93.2
2. Maria Sharapova
Maria Sharapova’s frenzied moan is a porn star grunt to match her porn star looks – though she says it’s been that way since she started playing tennis aged four. Sharapova’s scream has officially been clocked at 101 decibels, the equivalent of a police siren, so when the ex-Wimbledon champion wails you know the crowd takes notice. Accused by three-times former Wimbledon champ Chris Evert of raising the volume of her grunts to win crucial points, the Russian hottie has urged the snooping media to “just watch the match”. We would, but we’re arrested by you and your noises, Maria.
Decibel reading: 101
1. Michelle Larcher de Brito
The big noise last year was about then 16-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito, who emits less of a grunt than a squeal akin to an airplane taking off. During the 2009 French Open, opponent Aravane Rezaï complained to the umpire about the racket the Portuguese teen was making, which led to a Grand Slam official being brought to the net. No action was taken against the new Queen of Screams, but she was booed off the court. De Brito has said: “If people don’t like my grunting, they can always leave”. We’re sure they have. In droves. A shriek that brings to mind the image of a banshee in estrus.
Decibel reading: 109