Maria, come on now. Just stop!
Stop screaming and then referring to it as a grunt. There is nothing even remotely resembling a grunt in what you were doing during your match against Heather Watson in the first round. Congratulations for winning it in 3 tough sets after losing the first so quickly. I admire your competitive fight, and how you were able to change the momentum of the match after winning the second set.
But you crossed a line today with your screams. For those of us listening to the match via USOpen.org radio or online streaming, it was intolerable… even inexcusable. The first set wasn’t too bad. The funny thing is that your volume increased after you lost the first set. Yes, you also came out hitting harder in the second set. But it almost seemed as if you increased the volume of your screaming in order to irritate your opponent. Perhaps break her concentration a bit. You knew that Heather is one of the younger players on tour with not much Grand Slam experience. So maybe, just maybe, you increased your volume to help throw her off her game as you were trying to find your own.
Not so, you say? Then why did the volume increase so sharply? And why did the duration increase to the point that you were often still screaming as Heather was hitting her next shop? If you weren’t trying to distract your opponent into errors in order to save yourself from being bundled out on the first day, then what were you doing?
Lynn Welch was the chair umpire for your match. I think she is generally pretty great at what she does. This particular match was not one of her best. She allowed you to scream the whole match and said nothing. No warning, no sidebar conversation, nothing. It’s as if she gave you tacit approval of your “screaming” gamesmanship technique by not doing anything.
I’m surprised that Heather didn’t say anything to the chair about your screams. Then again, she is young and was probably intimidated. If you were playing your first match on Arthur Ashe stadium against a multi-Grand Slam champ, would you say anything about your opponent’s questionable behavior? Especially when that opponent is one of the most recognizable and popular athletes in the world? And would you really want to be the first to stick your neck out on this whole grunting controversy? I can’t fault her for just trying to keep her head down and do the best she could… in spite of your gamesmanship.
I like you Maria, and I admire many things about your game. You are a thoughtful athlete who, in spite of making millions in endorsements, still cares about being the best that they can be in their sport. That is admirable. And I don’t even mind your normal grunt too much, because it’s not as bad in a stadium when it’s not mic’d. From all accounts though, your screams from this match were just as bad for the stadium crowd as what we suffered through online. You are too good for this Maria. Hopefully someone involved with the Open, the WTA, or the ITF will stand up and say “No more!”.
Tennis deserves to be treated much better than this by someone of your stature.