Following the Wimbledon final, we’ve decided to take a look at tennis. One thing which seems universal across the world of tennis is their ability to scream at each other. Whether you’re watching men, women or children play, there’s a signature grunt after every swing which lets you know that tennis is happening. Considering no other sport seems to scream or grunt as much as they do in tennis, is there a reason for it, or is it just a weird tennis thing?
As it turns out, there’s actually a very good reason for it – two in fact. Tennis, like golf, is a sport where the crowd are expected to remain silent. If you’ve ever been to a professional tennis match you’ll know that the game will not start until you can hear a pin drop. This is because tennis is a mind game just as much as it is a game of physical exertion. Let’s be honest – the sound of silence punctuated by the rhythmic thwack of the racket followed by a shrill grunt or scream is disconcerting for everybody watching. The important point here is that screaming is cathartic – it relaxes the person doing the screaming. On the other hand, it serves to throw off the person at the other end of the court.
The classic “come on” which is shouted at the opponent really does psyche out the opponent. Sharapova’s “come on” is the thing of nightmares, striking fear into the hearts of not just the opponent but anyone watching. Petra Kvitova’s Czech equivalent “pojd” serves the same purpose. Controlled studies have shown that when players weren’t allowed to scream, reactions were delayed by as much as 33 milliseconds. That may not seem like a lot but considering the world record fastest serve was 163.7mph (Samuel Groth, 2012), 0.33s is a long time to delay. If you can throw your opponent off for even a fraction of a second, you have the upper hand.
Tennis isn’t simply mind games though – skill, strength and speed are crucial when it comes to placing the ball exactly where you want it to go. Tennis isn’t the only sport where players shout either. Ask any martial artist and they will tell you that there’s a very good physical reason to kiai (shout) after a strike. This shout not only empties the chest cavity, reducing the change of getting winded by a counterattack, but allows you to strike your opponent with maximum strength. The same goes for tennis – if you want to hit the ball as hard as possible, shout as you hit it.
So when you’re standing there in your new custom tennis clothing this summer, bouncing the ball on the floor before you look up to serve, remember why it is that you scream. Relax, focus, and remember our advice here at Team Colours – scream like you’re losing if you want to win.