Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in action in 2016.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus in action in 2016. ERIK S. LESSER

Grunting comes to a screeching halt

FOUR years after officials first moved to crack down on excessive grunting, next month's Australian Open shapes as a potentially screech-free zone.

The absence of Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, two of the sport's most notorious offenders, will guarantee a quieter than normal Open.

Sharapova is serving a 15-month ban for doping, while Azarenka has recently given birth to her first child.

The pair will be joined on the sidelines next month by dual Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who is recovering from a stabbing, and the retired Ana Ivanovic.

As grand slam champions, Sharapova and Azarenka were the subject of a 2012 push to eradicate grunting from tennis - which also boasts several male grunters.

The Women's Tennis Association tackled the issue four years ago, vowing to implement plans to curb a habit legendary Martina Navratilova argues is cheating.

Then-WTA chairman and chief executive Stacey Allaster said current players would not targeted, but future generations would.

"It's time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” Allaster said.

"The bottom line is that we want to bring forward across all levels of competition an objective rule through use of technology.”

Sharapova, who is routinely mocked by spectators with imitation grunts, rarely makes a noise in practice.

Her loudest record grunt was recorded at 105 decibels - the equivalent to standing a metre from a chainsaw.

Several players, including Sabine Lisicki, have complained about noises made by opponents.

Officials continue to work with coaches to educate juniors to avoid making noises during rallies.

But one of the most significant issues is stopping future generations mimicking current stars.