A Shriekfest or A Grand Slam Final?

The 2012 Australian Open is moving towards an exciting conclusion. From the mens draw, Rafa Nadal defeated Roger Federer to secure the first berth in the finals. The other finalist will be determined tonight. Whether its Murray or Djokovic, the culmination against Rafa will be a great match.

The women’s final will be contested between Viktoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. It’s a classic clash of a rising star, Azarenka, with no experience in a major final against a three time slam champion. Both women are clean ball strikers and very heavy hitters. They’re both tall and rangy though Azarenka may be a slightly better mover.

Azarenka and Sharapova also share the dubious distinction of being the two loudest women on tour. Sharapova sounds like a person either perpetrating an act of violence or being the victim of one. Interestingly, she seems able to turn her shriek off at times as though storing it up to have maximal output when most needed. Conversely, Azarenka seems not to possess either an on/off switch or volume control. It sounds as though she is screaming the high-pitched answer to a question, in the affirmative, from a long range; “uh huuuuuuh!”

Over the last year the shrieking issue has become a hot topic of debate. “To shriek or not to shriek, that is the question.” Some hate the noise. Others feel it could be moderated, and a lesser number seem ambivalent.

For fans of shrieking, this match could prove to be something of a religious experience. Moments may occur during which shriek aficionados will close their eyes to the tennis, lift their hands skyward and reach a semiconscious state of shriek nirvana. Of course others will be trying desperately to jam bits of napkins, tissues, wads of gum or fingers deeply into their ears to lessen the din. Whatever the case, it should be interesting.

Personally, I find the shrieking both amazing and fascinating. I’m amazed at both the decibel level achieved and the duration for which the sounds can be produced. A tight, tense match can last for well over two hours. That’s a long time to be screaming while also running, jumping, bending, lunging, etc. And I’m fascinated that the vocal cords can withstand that stress without going into spasm or at least developing a bit of laryngitis. I went hoarse last night from screaming while watching the Nadal/Federer match.

Much discussion about noise production will take place while play is in progress and long after this match ends. The WTA is currently considering measures to reduce grunting which for many fans and players has become annoying.

Hopefully, the tennis won’t be overshadowed by the noise issue. It’s quite possible that yet another woman will become a grand slam champion for the first time. If so, she should be remembered for the tennis played rather than the shrieks produced. After all, the Australian Open is a major, a slam. It’s all about tennis contested amongst the best players in the world and that’s all it should be about.

3 thoughts on “A Shriekfest or A Grand Slam Final?

  1. Martin – As you know I am not much of a grunter or a shrieker on the court, but like you I sure was shouting during the Nadal/Federer match, and again watching Djokovic/Murray in the 3rd set. Amazing how close those top four are. What inspiration.

  2. “To shriek or not to shriek” as Martin channels Hamlet…
    Much Sound and Fury from the tennis world, but, I believe, signifying nothing…
    More to the point…..Much ado about Nothing…

    Watched the women’s final and loved the “edge.” These are athletic contests with sweat and sinew and, yes, sound. Sports should not be pristine, and the televised world of sports can be especially antiseptic with the only sound being that of commentators,. The vocalizations of strong and vigorous young women is welcome.

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