5 January 2012
A tennis coaching document used at one of the world’s most famous tennis academies – Nick Bollettieri’s in Florida – recommends breathing out when hitting the ball in a manner that naturally leads to punctuation with a grunt, it has been revealed today.
While the academy and Bollettieri – who is an occasional columnist for Sportingintelligence – have always denied teaching grunting, and are actively working to eradicate it, it appears the noise is one by-product of particular ‘ideal’ breathing patterns taught during play.
The document, ‘Breathing vs Grunting in Tennis’, was written by Dr Angus Mugford, the director of the academy’s Mental Conditioning Division. The aim for players “is to manage optimal breathing on the breathing continuum”, which essentially entails breathing in until the moment contact, and then forcefully out when the ball leaves the strings.
To use grunting as a tactic to disrupt opponents is described in the document as ‘unfair’, ‘unethical’ and ‘unsportsmanlike’.
Bollettieri himself, one of the most successful coaches of all time who has worked with 10 world No1 players, has said: “We’ve been doing research with our trainers and doctors about how to relax the body without grunting – we don’t want them to stop breathing, because they still have to release the tension”.