Grunting can be annoying, but science suggests it really can give players an advantage.
Though those grunts have ticked off spectators and tennis officials, science suggests mimicking a brutalised animal really does give players an advantage.
Writing for The Conversation, Victoria University professor of sports science Damian Farrow examined scientific studies that probed the impact of grunting. He determined skilled players hit the ball 3.9 per cent faster during play and 4.9 per cent faster during serves when they grunting — producing more force without putting in more effort.
“Overall this suggests that grunting is performance-enhancing, and is a sustainable strategy over the course of a match,” Farrow concluded.
Grunting isn’t a surefire strategy for victory, though: Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka lost to Australia’s Ashleigh Barty in the first round of the Open back in 2018, despite her much-mocked grunts.
A well-timed grunt won’t just boost tennis performance. A 2013 study found that a “vocalised exhalation condition” (that is, a grunt) increased the force both men and women could generate by about 10 per cent.
Not that that’s an excuse to huff and shriek like you’re being murdered when you play tennis or lift weights in the gym. That would just be rude.