Why Is Tennis a Noisy Game? (Solved & Explained)

If you are a tennis fan, you should have watched dozens of matches on the TV or in stadiums. Tennis matches can get quickly exciting and the ambiance on the courts absolutely buzzing, especially in close matches where the outcome is unpredictable. Then why is tennis a noisy game?

Tennis Crowds Are Noisy

There can be excitement and screams all over the place when particular conditions are met in a tennis venue. Here are some of the reasons why the crowd in a tennis match can be noisy.

  • The match is played in a big and crowded stadium. On the Tour, there a couple of venues with big stadiums that can accommodate thousands of people cheering and screaming, for example the Arthur Ashe center court in New York or the Rod Lever Arena in Melbourne.
  • One of the players or the teams plays in front of the home crowd. The level of cheering and excitement is off charts when Rafa Nadal plays in the Madrid Open or when Andy Murray competes in a Wimbledon court.
  • The match hits climax. For example, when the players play a decider tiebreak, or an opponent serves for a match point.
  • There is controversy between the players or between one of the players and the umpire. Lots of booing takes place in such a moment. Also, when a player smashes his racquet in angriness the crowd goes mad.

A tennis crowd can produce noise levels up to 120 dB.

The Players Make Noise During Rallies

There are a lot of players that grunt during the rallies. Female players grunt a little more than men. Also, they scream harder than men, and you can quickly validate this fact by watching a match between Sharapova and Serena Williams.

In fact, the loudest female tennis player is Portuguese Michelle Larcher de Brito with the highest recorded noise level of 109 dB.

Russian Maria Sharapova’s grunts are also famous with screams often getting past the 100 decibels.

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka is currently one of the loudest female players.

Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors have been considered the creators of the tennis grunt. Monica Seles used to reach 90 decibels in her matches.

For male players, Andre Agassi is one of the most famous grunters and was sometimes hated by his opponents who said it was like cheating and putting off the other player.

Why do Tennis Players Grunt?

There are many reasons why players grunt during the matches, making games unpleasant at times.

  • Some players grunt because they feel pain or exhaustion. A way to externalize the pain or the fatigue is to scream during the shots.
  • Some players grunt because it is a habit. Sometimes there are patterns that tennis players adopt that make them focus better and embrace the game effectively. For example, Rafa Nadal’s grunting on powerful forehands or backhands is a habit that systematically repeats in every match. He says that it is natural and it makes playing a lot easier.
  • Players grunt because it helps them time the ball better and grow confidence because of the illusion of hitting harder.  
  • Others believe that players groan to throw off their opponents and break their momentum.
  • Sometimes, the players scream when they hit a magnificent winner in a crucial moment like a break point or match point or after a long rally to express their supremacy.

The Tennis Ball Makes Noise on the Impact

According to a study made by the Institute of Man-Machine-Communication, Technical University Munich, a tennis ball when making contact with the racquet can generate a maximum of 58.4 dB.

The noise produced by the ball depends on the power of the stroke. It is in general louder on service than a forehand or a volley, because the swing and the head speed of the racquet are at a maximum. It is also louder indoors because of the reduced outside sound pressure.

The sound of the ball on the impact is a good indicator for tennis players. It is used to read the upcoming shot and to organize and prepare for the return soon enough.   

Even though tennis games require complete silence of the audience, but the moment of impact creates an instant spike of noise. Nevertheless, the sound of the ball impact is pleasant to the ear and all tennis fans love it.

How Noisy is a Tennis Game Compared to Other Sounds?

The term noisy can have multiple meanings but in this case, we talk about the screams and the explosion of different emotions in a sports event.

Tennis is noisy, but how does it compare to other sounds?

  • A tennis ball on the impact can produce up to 60 db
  • Players screams can reach 109 db (Michelle Larcher de Brito).
  • A tennis crowd can reach 120 db in noise level.
SoundAverage noise level (*)
Leaves rustling, soft music, whisper30 dB
Average home noise40 dB
Tennis shot40-60 dB
Normal conversation, background music60 dB
Office noise, inside car at 60 mph70 dB
Vacuum cleaner, average radio75 dB
Heavy traffic, window air conditioner, noisy restaurant, power lawn mower80–89 dB
Subway, shouted conversation90–95 dB
Boom box, ATV, motorcycle96–100 dB
School dance101–105 dB
Maximum tennis grunt90-110 dB
Chainsaw, leaf blower, snowmobile106–115 dB
Sports crowd (tennis crowd), rock concert, loud symphony120–129 dB
Stock car races130 dB
Gunshot, siren at 100 feet140 dB

Source: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/tf4173

(*) Average noise level in decibels means the average recorded decibels in normal atmospheric pressure and normal surrounding sound pressure.

Final Thoughts

Unlike playing alone, tournament tennis games are filled with excitement and craziness. While the noise coming from the crowd and the shots are appreciated, the grunts made by the players especially by women players are often criticized. The loud prolonged semi-orgasmic screams in every shot can become unbearable and a turnoff for tennis fans. It is also interpreted as a tactic to distract the opponent and break his/her focus.

What do you think about the grunts in tennis? Should they be banned altogether?

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