Scream queens to do battle for Australian title

AFP, Melbourne, Australia

Sat, Jan 28, 2012 - Page 7

On one side is the “haaah,” and on the other is the “aaagh,” and in between, a bit of tennis. Welcome to the “Scream Queen” final, where every shot will be heard around the world.

In a match-up dreaded by the WTA, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, two of the game’s most notorious shriekers, will contest the Australian Open trophy today.

The timing is unfortunate, coming just days after the WTA launched a crackdown on the unladylike grunting that has long been a source of debate and innuendo.

And stereo screaming from either side of the net may prove too much for the jocular Australian crowd, which joined in en masse with Azarenka’s distinctive exclamations during her late-night win over Casey Dellacqua.

Australia’s Channel Seven TV will be at hand with its Whoo! Meter, which has already clocked Azarenka at 91.4 decibels — the equivalent of a passing truck.

Headline writers have gone to town, with the Herald Sun calling the pair the “squeal deal” and Britain’s Independent saying they are vying to be crowned “princess of wails.”

The Age’s Richard Hinds recalled Peter Ustinov’s famous quip about Monica Seles: “I would hate to be in the next room on her wedding night.”

“The genesis of the tennis grunt is disputed,” Hinds wrote.

“Some say the grunt was invented in Nick Bollettieri’s tennis laboratory where, convinced a noisy expulsion would help a player hit the ball harder, the famed coach played soundtracks from pornographic movies near the test tubes in which his ‘Deci-belles’ were incubating,” he wrote. “Others are adamant the shriek was secretly encouraged by the WTA Tour marketing department, which hoped to keep spectators awake during early-round matches.”

The WTA was concerned enough to take action, saying that “some fans find it bothersome.”

“Everyone who watches tennis knows grunting is a part of the game and we are aware that some fans find it bothersome,” the body said. “We are currently in the process of exploring how to reduce excessive grunting, especially for younger players just starting out.”

Azarenka, 22, has greeted all the fuss with good humor, patiently saying that, yes, she will be well aware of Sharapova’s squeals in today’s game.

“Well, I’m not deaf. Of course I hear her. I’m sure she hears me. And about another 15,000 people hear us maybe even further away,” she said. “I guess some people are just bored, you know. They created that machine that can measure it. So I mean, money well spent, huh?”

As for Sharapova, she stared it down with customary steel.

“No one important enough has told me to change or do something different,” the Russian said.



Unseeded Svetlana Kuznetsova and Vera Zvonareva won the Australian Open women’s doubles crown yesterday, coming from behind to beat Italy’s Roberta Vinci and Sara Errani in three sets. The Russians overcame a poor start from Zvonareva in particular to win the title 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 at the Rod Laver Arena.

The Italians looked far more comfortable at the start of the match, with superior movement and better teamwork.

Both teams struggled to hold serve throughout the opener, with seven service breaks in a row until Errani at last managed to hang onto hers and give the Italians the first set in 54 minutes.

The title is the second Grand Slam doubles crown for both Kuznetsova and Zvonareva, though with different partners. Zvonareva also has two mixed doubles titles.