LONDON, June 18 – First it was Monica, then Maria, now it's Michelle, the latest big noise in women's tennis who will have Britain's tabloids dusting off the Wimbledon 'gruntometers' next week.Michelle Larcher de Brito, just 16, made such a din with her on-court screaming at the French Open that her opponent complained to the umpire, condemning the Portuguese girl’s repeated noise-making as "unpleasant".
Now the International Tennis Federation is believed to be considering outlawing such distractions as "noise hindrance" under its code of conduct.
Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova believes the scream queens are gaining an unfair advantage.
"Grunting, screeching, shrieking – I call it cheating and it’s got to stop," she said.
"I started having issues with it when I was playing Monica Seles back in the early 1990s.
She was one of the first, and I didn’t like it one bit. It affected my game because to me it is important to hear the ball hit the racquet.
"Rules must be changed, players must be warned. If they don’t stop, they must have points deducted. I can see people turning off their TV sets because the noise players make is abhorrent."
Larcher de Brito has been handed a wildcard into Wimbledon, an act of generosity welcomed by the British media who once took great delight in measuring the decibel levels of Maria Sharapova and Seles.
Their ear-splitting noises were likened to all points between a jumbo jet taking off, a diesel train and a police siren.
But Larcher de Brito, like Sharapova a graduate of the Nick Bollettieri academy in Florida, is adamant she will not tone down the volume even if it continues to be an issue.
"It’s something that’s been part of my game ever since I started," she said.
"If they made a rule that you’re not allowed to shriek or scream or grunt, it wouldn’t be fair because it’s part of the game," she said.
"I’m 16, I’m still learning. Maybe I can eventually put it under control. I hope not because it comes from Monica Seles, it comes from Sharapova, it comes from really great players."
Bollettieri has said he has never encouraged his pupils to grunt and groan.
"Never once has that entered into my mind. But I believe releasing your energy is good because if you don’t, it tightens up the body," said the tennis guru.