Earplugs ready, it's the scream queen final

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.

sports Updated: Jan 27, 2012 16:32 IST
Maria Sharapova,Victoria Azarenka,Women's Tennis Association

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 Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, two of the game's most notorious shriekers, will contest the Australian Open trophy on Saturday.

The timing is unfortunate, coming just days after the WTA launched a crackdown on the unladylike grunting which 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".

Tennis website www.thetennisspace.com listed a compendium of descriptions, with highlights including "the mating call of a peacock", "a balloon being deflated" or "a woman about to give birth to triplets".

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," wrote Hinds.

"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.

"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, admitting 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 humour, patiently admitting that, yes, she will be well aware of Sharapova's squeals on Saturday evening.

"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," said the Russian dismissively.

First Published: Jan 27, 2012 13:22 IST