WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND, JUNE 30 -- Jennifer Capriati squeals, Monica Seles shrieks, Gabriela Sabatini groans. Grunting has always been a part of women's tennis, but the recent proliferation of strange noises emitted by players has brought up the issue again.
Some players find it distracting, accusing opponents of trying to interrupt them in mid-point. Others never notice. Seles is perhaps the worst offender, releasing a painful-sounding staggered scream when she hits the ball. Capriati sounds as though she has been punched in the back. Sabatini gives off more of a low moan.
Seles is so embarrassed by the topic she is seeking advice about how to stop. She watched tapes of her matches, including a scream-fest against Capriati in the French Open semifinals, to see just how bad it is. She pointed out that younger players may pick up the habit as juniors, since young players commonly grunt with exertion.
Some players, Pam Shriver and Martina Navratilova included, have complained the noise is distracting. But Seles and Capriati said they were unaware of the other's guttural sounds. Seles contends players are usually so concentrated they don't notice what their opponent is wearing, much less the background noise.
"Probably I'm the loudest, I don't know," Seles said. "I've said this over and over, I don't realize I'm doing it. . . . I'm really not doing it to distract the opponent. I would never do that. I think it's better. I'm not perfect but I think it's not as loud as it was."
Tough Going: Clay to Grass
Another debated issue is the short break between the French Open and Wimbledon and the difficulty players say they have in switching from clay to grass courts in just two weeks. The result is that Wimbledon is considering whether to start a week later.
First-year Wimbledon chairman John Curry has said the tournament would be willing to alter its traditional date to allow the players more time to prepare. The tournament is awaiting response from the player organizations; any change probably would not come until 1992.
Navratilova and Ivan Lendl each skipped the French Open for that reason, concentrating on grass-court practice instead. At 33, Navratilova covets a ninth Wimbledon title and was unwilling to jeopardize it by devoting too much time to clay-court preparation. She might return to the French if there is more time between the tournaments, and if she gets the ninth title.
"The older you get, the more time you need," she said. "I don't know, it's really a matter of how I feel and what all happens this year."
Navratilova and Boris Becker have said they would like to see a grass-court season leading into Wimbledon, rather than just one or two tuneup events.
"It would be nice to bring some more grass-court tennis in, since the biggest tournament in the world is played on grass, and you literally get to play two tournaments on grass maybe, or maybe just one," said Navratilova. "It sort of doesn't make any sense, it would be nice to have a circuit running up to it. But I don't know how the upper echelon feels about changing the dates, since it's been done this way for a hundred years."
Doctor's Visit; Wedding Wager
Defending champion Steffi Graf of West Germany left Wimbledon today and flew home, apparently to see her doctor about a persistent sinus problem that has bothered her throughout the spring. She did not leave any explanation, and it could only be assumed she would return in time for her fourth-round meeting with Capriati on Monday. . . .
A Stockport, England, housewife has bet 10 pounds at 100-1 that Graf and Becker will marry each other before Wimbledon 1995, according to the Guardian.