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Tennis Grunt

Grunt Evolution

Received: 12Feb2011

Is there Darwinian selection of grunting tennis players: the title of this paper,
"A Preliminary Investigation Regarding the Effect of Tennis Grunting, by"1,2

would qualify it for Weird Science status on its own. But the study itself is pretty interesting.

Grunt Noise

Researchers showed videos of a tennis player striking a ball, and asked a set of undergrads to predict which side of the court the ball was headed to. If the video was accompanied by a noise, the students performed far worse in their predictions.

Grunt Amateurs

There are a couple of weaknesses here; i.e., the students never made it beyond rec-league tennis, and the "grunt" was actually a bit of white noise-but the distraction seems real, and the authors suggest it might actually mask cues players get from the sound of the racket hitting the ball.

Grunt Timing

Assuming it is real, it raises an interesting question. Is the rise of grunting in recent years a product of strategy, or are players who happen to grunt becoming more common at pro levels simply because they're more successful in a survival-of-the-fittest way?3


Notice that announcers and commentators are generally opposed to grunting. Do you suppose they know that we turn the volume down when we watch an Azarenka match? Horrors, there brilliant observations fall on deaf ears.

1 Scott Sinnett Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States of America

2 Alan KingstoneDepartment of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

3 My best results are obtained by emitting a loud grunt immediately before my opponent hits the ball.