What's Up With All That Noise!
May 29, 2009 -- The sparse crowds on center court early this afternoon got on Michelle Larcher De Brito's back. They were fed up with her screeching. Every time she struck the ball, she yelped as if scared by a big bad Roland Garros crow-ka-deal -- you know, like the Lacoste crow-ka-deals (or alligators as many say), only bigger... much bigger.
Venus Williams screamed her head off today, too. She opened her throat and let fans know the depth of her anguish as she lost to the #20 seed Agnes Szavay 60 64. Ouch!
And then... Prima Donna Screecher Maria Sharapova entered center court -- Court Philippe Chatrier at Roland Garros -- and set a standard for audio annoyance not many women could possibly surpass.
Does all this noise make a difference? Does it help?
Some say yes. Players yell -- or make a little noise -- at contact point, right when the ball hits the strings. The noise helps time the shot. It pushes air out of their lungs. However, many will agree that it ultimately distracts from tennis. Sharapova's been doing it since she was knee-high to Nick Bolleteri. Wonder how his hearing is nowadays?
In her press conference Aravane Rezai said she complained to the chair umpire about the screams from De Brito.
"I think the umpire did not really do his job, and so I told the [tournament] referee she's shouting too loud," Rezai began. "There's a limit. You can't really shout that way."
Then De Brito got in the fray, saying Sharapova had never been told she was shouting too loudly. However, Rezai apparently had had an encounter with Sharapova in a previous tournament, and that Sharapova was told. Guess it hasn't made a dent.
Viewers must have prayed for points to end today when the qualifier Yaroslava Shvedova beat down Sharapova 6-1 in the first set. A collective sigh of relief was heard from the audience. Maybe the match would be over in two sets, they thought. If Shvedova kept up the drubbing, Maria would be out of the championships. Goodie!!!! Tres bien! That's one less distressful match to hear.
Unfortunately, or fortunately if you are a Maria fan and don't care about these utterances, Sharapova fought mightily. She always does. Her will and competitive nature are awesome, for sure. So Shvedova couldn't quite get it done and was defeated 16 63 64. Maybe Shvedova was thrown for a loop by the high-range of squeals. Think about it next time you encounter a screamer.
Sharapova lives to meet Li Na in the round of sixteen 16 63 64. Let's hope Li Na doesn't yelp. The terre battue needs a rest.
The official rules from the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of the four Grand Slams, don't include rules specifically about screaming. However, Rule 26 Hindrance reads: "'If a player is hindered in playing the point by a deliberate act of the opponent(s), the player shall win the point.'" It goes on to say... "'However, the point shall be replayed if a player is hindered in playing the point by either unintentional act of the opponent(s), or something outside the players' own control.'"
Given that, the chair umpire could have thrown some points to Rezai. However, the protests would have been even more boisterous. The match would have turned ugly, which the French fans would not have stood for. Too messy.
The men are not immune from the screaming disorder, either. They make noise, but somehow it's more acceptable. They sound as if they need to grunt -- not scream like a girl. Perhaps they think they are out there working harder than the women. If they play harder, then the noises they make can't be as bad. Right?
What about Rafa? He certainly can hang with the best... maybe with Maria? Think about the mixed doubles team of Rafa and Maria. Their courtly duets could be big hits on iTunes.
What about the men who yell out after the ball has left their string beds? That's David Ferrer to a tee. He hits a ball, and then bellows. No one seems to complain about him.
Perhaps it's because guys are "like that." Their throaty bursts maintain a lower range of sounds, these being less shrill to the human ear. Or maybe it's simply because they are guys and guys can get away with it while women are chastised for their version of the same thing. Is it a sexist thing? In a way... yes.
All this noisy stuff aside... the upset of the day came at the expense of Venus Williams, the championship's #3 seed. As much as Venus verbalized her misgivings, she just couldn't stop the onslaught of demure Agnes Szavay.
Here's Venus's take on her loss: "Yeah, I had a tough day, and I didn't get the ball in the court, and that didn't help me at all."
Some think her schedule tripped her up. It took two days to get past Lucie Safarova because of darkness the first day out. Then her doubles match with sister Serena went on for three days, the middle day for rest, but it did start on Tuesday and finally ended on Thursday. And what about the shifting clay conditions at Roland Garros? One day it's wet and slow. The next, that would be today, the conditions are dry and fast, the balls bouncing every which way but where she wanted them.
Question: What's a poor part-time tennis girl to do?
Answer: Continue with the doubles and hope the green grasses of Wimbledon have been grown from the same batch of seeds The All England Lawn Tennis Club planted in 2008.
Earlier Columns from this Event:
May 28, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Shifting Clay of Roland Garros
May 27, 2009 French Open Coverage: The Heart of a Champion
May 26, 2009 French Open Coverage: American Women in Paris
May 25, 2009 French Open Coverage: Sharapova Fights On, Nadal and Federer Cruise
May 24, 2009 French Open Coverage: Bienvenue au Paris