An unfamiliar sound can be heard at a Ball State men’s tennis match, or, as a matter of fact, at any tennis match.
That sound is a grunt. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, a grunt is a “deep, short sound characteristic of a hog.”
But the team's grunts cannot be defined in a dictionary. Freshman Khamasi Muhiga said grunting is a part of his technique.
“When I grunt, for one, it helps me to add more power to the ball,” Muhiga said. “Two, it helps keep me with the same rhythm. If I grunt at the same time, I’m going to hit the ball the same way.”
For most tennis players, grunting is used for exhaling when they hit the tennis ball.
Junior Nemanja Guzina said grunting helps him exhale when he hits the ball, but for junior Marko Guzina, it’s different. Grunting plays an important role for the Cardinals.
“When I grunt, I use it when it’s a long point and able to push myself to the limit,” Marko said.
However, grunting can be a distraction to both players, coaches and even fans. For head coach Bill Richards, he thinks grunting isn’t as annoying as it was 10 years ago, as it has become a common aspect of the game.
“To me, grunting is just one of those things that you get used to,” Richards said. “It’s just part of the game.”
However, grunting can be used as an unsportsmanlike foul against players. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association regulations state that following a complaint from any player on the same court, an official who hears grunting that is loud enough to disrupt play shall caution the offending player that subsequent outbursts will be penalized under the ITA Point Penalty System.
“Only if you think it’s intentional and trying to use gamesmanship,” Richards said. “It’s just trying to gain an unfair competitive advantage.”
For fans attending tennis matches, some may get annoyed with it, while other enjoy this unique part of the game.
“I think fans actually like it,” Marko said. “They think it’s funny and entertaining for them for sure. The more vocal we are, the more they enjoy it.”
However, if numerous matches are going on at once, the grunting may become distracting to spectators.
“I feel like fans definitely get annoyed with males grunting,” Nemanja Guzina said. “When they hear females grunt, it might be more pleasing to the ears.”
However, even professional tennis players grunt during matches.
Members of the team think Russian professional tennis player Maria Sharapova has a recognizable grunt. Muhiga doesn't even watch a lot of tennis, but knows Sharapova from her grunting.
“Sharapova’s grunt is just loud and long,” Muhiga said.
Grunting is a part of tennis. Whether it’s used as a distraction or breathing technique, grunting has always been in the sport. The Cardinals will continue to use it to their advantage as they progress further into their season.
Ball State men’s tennis will take its grunts down south this weekend as it competes in the Louisville Invitational Friday through Sunday.
Contact Patrick Murphy with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org