LONDON: Victoria Azarenka claimed that women players are unfairly pilloried for their on-court shrieking and grunting and blasted boozy Wimbledon fans for mocking her as well as rivals Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Azarenka and Williams cranked up the volume on Centre Court on Tuesday during their gruelling quarter-final, which the American won 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 to set-up a semi-final clash with Sharapova.
As the encounter’s tension increased so did the mimicry of the fans inside the 15,000-capacity arena.
“I’m so tired of these questions all the time. It’s so annoying because guys grunt. I was practicing next to Rafael Nadal, and he grunts louder than me, and nobody noticed that,” said former world number one Azarenka.
“Why? Both the women on court are trying their hardest and giving everything they have, and they make a noise. Is that a problem of tennis?
“It happens in every sport. So I think maybe it’s time to just put it aside and not talk about it all the time because this is not what is important when there are two players playing on the Centre Court.
“We’ve got to look a little bit past that and see, Oh, my God, Serena played 24 aces.
“Look at the good stuff. Stop bringing this ridiculous stuff. Let’s put aside the noise and how she looks, and look at the game.”
Azarenka believes fans on Centre Court, many of them revelling in the tournament’s status as a major English social summer event as well as a sporting spectacle, should learn to behave.
The Belarusian advised them to ease up on their alcohol intake when they are sprending all day in the sun watching the tennis.
“I think they might have had a little too many glasses of Pimm’s or whatever,” she said in reference to the gin-based cocktail which is as closely associated with Wimbledon as strawberries and cream.
“When people are drinking, every time the announcer says, Make sure you hydrate yourself, I think he means with water, not with alcohol.”
Sharapova has long been derided for her grunting and shrieking. Britain’s famously inventive tabloid press have even utilised a “gruntometer” to measure the often ear-splitting shrieks of the top players.
Back in 2012, the WTA pledged a crackdown on the worst offenders.
But Sharapova said she was bored by the issue.
“I have nothing to say. It’s nothing new. It’s not a new question, so…,” said the Russian after her 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-2 win over Coco Vandeweghe on Tuesday.
Serena said the laughing from the crowd often made it difficult for the players to make out line calls, but stopped short of telling spectators to shut up between the points.
“I don’t think it’s done in a disrespectful way. I just know that me and Vika, we were just giving our all out there. Literally we gave everything that we had,” said the world number one and five-time champion.
“I’m done with controversy. I’m tired. I have to do an ice bath. If you have any other questions, I’m cool, but I’m done with that.”