Grunting in Women’s Tennis…Why it can be Music to a Coach’s ear! Yet how a ‘Silent Grunt’ is preferred and possible with the PFT System.

Dear Readers! Okay, so while watching the 2018 Wimbledon Ladies Finals broadcast yesterday, and just after returning from the NSCA National Conference [National Strength & Conditioning Specialists] I decided to re-post this blog I wrote in 2013.  Also, after extensive conversations with my fellow NSCA scientists and coaches I realized the PFT System that I created can offer something to consider when trying to understand how Physical POWER and all things related (explosive, repetitive, RFD) can be further assessed with the sound of your voice [aka GRUNTING]. Vocalizing or grunting is powered by your Breath-Core Coordination in sympathetic mode! and oh ya, did I mention, there’s a cognitive performance enhancement [i.e. reaction and response time improvement] that may come as an added benefit!


1. Watch the video below.

2. Then read the blurb below as to what I think you should assess,

3. and then observe again.

2018 Wimbledon Ladies finals! When I watch, or should I say also LISTEN to, in ladies tennis, one can’t help notice the loud vocalizing. And yes, I do hear it as vocalizing vs. grunting. From my experience and expertise with the PFT System, adding listening to one’s observing can help assess how efficient the player is with respect to their Center of Pressure (i.e. an Object’s [i.e. the Player’s] Center of Mass over Base of Support). Putting COP on the list of factors that affect athletic performance and how it asserts the scale of optimization of an athlete’s performance level, can be a game changer!

***Watch the video again****, observe by also listening to the audible output with its variances in even vocal styles between athletes. Know that, when considering the PFT System, it can tell us a lot about each player’s breath-core-joint performance and overall repetitive power performance. But also pay attention in this specific long rally, to how the characteristics of each player’s ‘grunt’ are consistent in length, the range in pitch and the ‘loudness’. Although congratulations goes to Kerber for a win this year, I will have to say that in this particular example S. Williams was the winner for sustaining a power output for longer!

Having said that, the characteristics of the sound by Kerber identified when considering the PFT System, that she was actually more efficient in her Breath-Core power activation initially, while Williams was more successful at finding a more optimized activation that could sustain longer and more powerful at the end of her exhale/grunt!

IMPORTANT – “The SILENT GRUNT”: Although the Voicing/Grunting/Vocalizing seems like a unique parameter to measure, there is an option with the PFT System to get the same results without making sound! And in my opinion, a better option, since if one day you lose your voice or it hurts to phonate (i.e. vocalize or make sound with the vocal cords or vocal mechanism), then your performance will not get affected as a player!


Please read below on an original blog I posted back in 2013 when Grunting was at the forefront of the WTA. Hope this gives all of you players, coaches and sport scientists something to think about!

maria sharapova

Although some think that “grunting” in Women’s Tennis is cheating, with my work on the voice-core connection™ through The PFT System (formerly Pilates2Voice®), I can affirm that there is a valid connection between ‘grunting’ and ‘core performance.’ 

In a statement about this topic in Wikipedia: 

Some players and commentators have noted the connection with pro tennis trainer Nick Bollettieri, who has personally trained the majority of the controversially loud “grunters” including Larcher de Brito, Seles, Sharapova, Agassi, and the Williams sisters, leading to repeated accusations that he has been deliberately teaching grunting as a novel tactic in order to give his latest generation of students an edge in competitive play.[17]  Bollettieri has denied teaching grunting as a distraction tactic, and says grunting is natural, “I prefer to use the word ‘exhaling’. I think that if you look at other sports, weightlifting or doing squats or a golfer when he executes the shot or a hockey player, the exhaling is a release of energy in a constructive way.”[15]

Although the loud vocalizations have been described as “grunts”, after reviewing several female tennis players, I would prefer to differentiate the voicings as: the GRUNT (Serena)the SHRIEK (Sharapova); and the HOWL (Azarenka). As the creator of the PFT System (formerly Pilates2Voice®), I can assess from the style of a tennis player’s vocalization during a ‘hitting of the ball’, characteristics about the performance of her core/powerhouse, and more specifically, the transversus abdominis muscle!

The voicing commits one to exhale with force, otherwise known in singing as a forced expiratory breath. Sharapova’s growls register up to a 101 decibels, giving her ‘rock star’ status in my terms!

Admittedly if the grunting and growling continue without the ideal support for vocalization due to a less than optimal respiratory control, then it could possibly lead to overuse vocal injury. So instead of criticizing the players for competitive distraction tactics, it’s best to give the player a reason to ‘change’ behavior to improve pulmonary function/control and voicing, while at the same time, not compromise ‘core’ performance! 

There are two ways to do that:

  1. CHANGE GROWL TO HOWL: change the low grunt or growl into a healthy howl, minimizing the hard vocal onset (attack). 


  1. TAKE THE SOUND OUT: learn how to perform a non-phonatory voice-core strengthening™ exhale (e.g.The PFT System’s Bubble Cheek exercise)

While watching Azarenka’s latest win against Serena Williams at the Qatar Open, it led me to support her way of HOWLING! With the long high to low voicing, her core performance is heads and shoulders above the ‘short burst grunters’. They call it a grunt, but I don’t hear it as one, as the howl is a sound we make in singing training.  She herself has both the growl and the howl, but it was the howl that peaked a musical ear, and was sampled and remixed in a song by LMFAO’s Redfoo. Read About Victoria Azarenka’s Redfoo song!

In summary, on a personal level, I too used to be a grunter when I played recreational tennis. As a professionally trained opera singer, I had to make a change because I felt my voice was getting fatigued after a game. 

Now having developed and sustained a strong PFT voice-core connection when hitting the ball, I can both save my voice, and power the ball across the net, without any distraction to my opponent. 

Feel free to comment or ask questions!
Check out the website: KPERFORM and SIGN UP to get more information about the products and technology we are building to bring The PFT System to you!
With much enthusiasm and for the greater good!
‘per il bene più grande’
your Opera Singer and Strength Coach, 
Dr. Veera Khare Asher