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Women's tennis faces grunt ban

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Female tennis players are set to face penalties for letting out a shriek with their serve.

The Women's Tennis Association plans to phase out loud grunting because the noise bothers fans.

"It's time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations," WTA CEO Stacey Allaster told reporters, as she unveiled the organisation's plan to quieten future tennis players.

Elena Baltacha, above, is known to make a racket on the court

The WTA aims to develop a handheld device - dubbed the "grunt-o-meter" - for umpires to measure the decibels of each serve-scream, along with a set of rules defining acceptable noise levels.

It will also educate tennis academies, so junior players are clear on their acoustic limitations.

Allaster added, "The bottom line is that we want to bring forward across all levels of competition an objective rule through use of technology to make it much easier for athletes and chair umpires."

However, the likes of Maria Sharapova - World No. 1 and noted grunter - need not worry too much about downgrading their howls - the rules will apply only to non-established players.

Tennis veteran Monica Seles, above in 1990, is credited with introducing "screaming" to the game

"What is clear from experts is that it would have a clear, damaging effect on performance of the existing generation," Allaster admitted.

While court legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova welcomed the WTA's decision, some critics pointed out that the lack of such legislation for male players - the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic being among known "grunters" - created further division in a sport that has been criticised for its gender pay gap.

In March Stylist launched the Fair Game Campaign to stop sexism in sport and is awaiting a response from the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on its petition requesting an inquiry into issues of gender inequality.

Do you think female tennis players should make less noise? Let us know on Twitter or in the comments section below.

Words: Anna Pollitt. Pictures: Rex Features

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