Rafael Nadal is in good form ahead of Rolland Garros
Close your eyes and listen to Maria Sharapova play tennis, and you’d think you’d wandered into the wrong bedroom.
This is unfortunate, because it deflects from her real contribution to the game.
For Sharapova, with Serena Williams, boasts the greatest combination of aural and stroking talent in tennis. But while paying due credit to the pair’s gifts, it should not be forgotten who the real innovator has been, the one responsible for taking tennis to another level.
Monica Seles should never be forgotten. She was the one who perfected The Grunt. The two-handed thumper Seles unleashed a decibel deluge, the like of which may never be heard again.
She was the original and the best.
Who knows how many more majors she may have won, had Seles not been plagued by injuries in her career?
Who knows how many more majors Margaret Court and Martina Navratilova, with their combination of touch and power, might have won had they possessed The Grunt?
Williams, Sharapova and their successors should pay tribute to Seles whenever they make their Grand Slam acceptance speeches.
There are lessons here for the men.
The technical revolution has been given the credit for the modern power-baseline game. Rod Laver played in an era when three of the four majors were played on grass, when players had wooden racquets with small heads and strings not comparable with today’s high-tech variety.
When the US’s Clark Graebner walked on court with a racquet with an oversized head in the late 1960s, it was the technological start of the modern game. It’s been speculated how Laver and his contemporaries would fare, with the benefit of modern technological advances, against today’s giants.
But the real advance hasn’t come with technology, it’s come with The Grunt.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray – they all pull out The Grunt on the big points.
It’s a fair bet Thanasi Kokkinakis is the real future of Australian men’s tennis. Kokkinakis seems to have the temperament, but more important, he has an impressive grunt. Nick Krygios and Bernard Tomic might take note.
They could release all their histrionics and prima-donnaism into The Grunt. That way might lie the answer to their temperament problems and fulfilling the potential that nobody questions.
If it’s good enough for Sharapova, Williams, Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and the other aspirants, it’s good enough for them.
It was good enough for Seles, and never let her be forgotten.
So when Sharapova and Williams are holding court on court, don’t turn down the volume, turn it up.
Give thanks. This was the way the game was meant to be played; with a bang and not a whimper.