Grunting or screaming in women's tennis is nothing new. Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka being two of the loudest in the game is nothing new either. But when the two of them came together in the women's semi-final at Roland-Garros, it was the noisiest encounter I had ever heard.
The screams just went on and on - not just at the point each hit their shot, but still when the ball was on the other side of the net, almost on the strings of their opponent's racquet.
It was Sharapova who most caught me by surprise. Although she is a screamer, she was Azarenka's equal - or perhaps even more prominent - in the way she hit the ball. Her squeal was much longer than it's ever been.
It became intolerable by the end.
It was a terrific contest and constantly absorbing, even if there were numerous errors from both players, a three-set match which could have gone either way until the end. But it looked like the crowd were drifting away from it and were disconcerted by the noise. A lot of them were shaking their heads. Accordingly, it didn't have the atmosphere that it might have done. It was quite unpleasant.
And was Sharapova louder than usual yesterday? Only she knows what happened - but it came across to me that there was definitely a statement being made: 'I am not going to be upset by your noise and in fact I'm going to make even more noise.'
Equally, perhaps she was just so intense going into the match that she could not help herself. As I say, only she knows.
It wouldn't be a surprise if Sharapova is a little quieter in the final, when she meets Serena Williams on Saturday. I don't think she'll be quiet - just quieter. But then it's likely to be a very different sort of match. Unless Serena implodes she is going to win the final.
The WTA intend to try to tackle the problem with new arrivals into the game.
They've obviously taken the view that they can't - or won't - do anything about the likes of Sharapova and Azarenka. Are they really going to do something with the youngsters? I hope so - because at the moment it's a turn-off to the tennis.
The proof is in the pudding, and I'm not optimistic about it. They seem unable to get a firm grip on the players about anything, whether it's the grunting, or the toilet breaks, or slow play.
- Sports & Recreation
- Maria Sharapova
- Victoria Azarenka