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Here’s Why Tennis Players are More Likely to Win When They Grunt

Serena Williams in action during the US Open Tennis Championship 2022
Source: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images

Some of the world’s best tennis players, like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, are almost as famous for the noises they make on the court as their impressive playing.

Fans have wondered for years why tennis players grunt so loudly when they play, theorizing that it distracts their competitors or even that it is simply a physical reaction that cannot be controlled. 

But now, thanks to Australian scientist Dr. Karl, there is cold hard proof that grunting actually does something. In fact, Dr. Karl argues that, according to his research, grunting can help tennis players win. In a short clip released on TikTok, Dr. Karl explains that grunting “improves the speed of which you return/serve the ball by about 5%.”

He goes on to say that “this might be due to something like reinforcing your core,” and then encourages his followers to place their finger into their abdomen and grunt. After doing so, one easily notices that the core tenses, making it stronger. Of course, tennis players use their core muscles as well as their arms to hit the ball with incredible force, so increased core strength directly correlates with a faster serve. 

Dr. Karl also discusses how grunting actually hinders the opponent as they cannot hear “the sound of the ball leaving [the grunter’s] tennis racket.” Giving the grunter the advantage of surprise since the recipient won’t know how hard it was hit or be able to deduce where it’s headed. Additionally, he noted that his research confirmed that those receiving the ball typically hit it between 20 to 30 milliseconds slower if their opponent grunted, which equals about a one-meter difference. While that may not seem like much, in one of the fastest games in the world, it can certainly make a big difference.  

Another interesting aspect of grunting that Dr. Karl found was that the actual sound of the grunt can signify which player is winning. Although he didn’t explain why, Dr. Karl noted that, typically, “higher frequency grunts mean you’re losing, and lower frequency grunts mean that you’re winning.” So fans may be able to tell who is going to win the match simply based on the pitch of the two players’ grunts. 

There has always been debate as to whether or not tennis players should be allowed to grunt or even scream while playing. There are some tennis players and fans who believe that grunting is a necessity, while others consider it cheating. However, according to the sport’s newest official regulations, players are allowed to make whatever noises they want or need to. And now, with this new information, players who historically stayed quiet during their matches may start grunting as loudly as champions like Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Rafael Nadal to see if it will really make a difference.


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