Shout me down but I'm a male chauvinist pig when it comes to tennis screaming.

Not that I like it in either game. But when it comes to the men, I don't even call it screaming. It's grunting and usually way more acceptable to these ears, although there is an Argentinian called Carlos Berlocq who should play in a muzzle.

Rafael Nadal's noisy approach is mildly-to-very annoying; Maria Sharapova's screaming drives me nuts. I wish tennis would do something to curtail the Decibel Belle and all those — both men and women — who think hitting a tennis ball equals getting hit in the ribs with a hammer.

The women do seem worse to my ears. This is related to their higher vocal pitch, hopefully, rather than some deep rooted issue deserving of psychiatrist couch time.


Or put it this way: I felt like grunting with absolute delight as Sharapova was obliterated by Angelique Kerber in the third round of the Australian Open over the weekend. Sharapova is at the top of my tennis Most Not Wanted list. Perhaps it is related to that positive drugs test.

Or probably not. Maybe something else is going on — the more I naturally dislike a tennis player, the more their screams annoy me. Or is it the screaming; a chicken and egg dilemma.

Which is what being a sports fan is all about, let's face it, because following sport is a fairly irrational business.

Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates win over Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne. Photo / AP.
Russia's Maria Sharapova celebrates win over Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova in their second round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne. Photo / AP.

We often make the rules up as we go along, to fit our emotional responses. In other words, All Blacks are squeaky clean citizens who are sometimes provoked into unfortunate reactions, whereas Springboks are dirty b!@#$%^& no matter how well their legendary players like Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers come across as great people.

Nothing stirs the emotions like tennis. As the years advance, it is becoming more and more my sport of choice.

Over the years, there has never been one type of player who appeals. The revered have included the stylists — the incomparable Roger Federer, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis. Others have been the wild ones — led by the crazy genius of John McEnroe.

Tennis is a sport apart, a one-on-one face-to-face combat zone where you have to control all that fear, aggression, excitement in a tiny hitting zone. It is very raw.

Tennis is like boxing without being able to hit anyone, a sometimes physically and mentally exhausting chess game with endless chances to take the frustration out on yourself. No wonder it can bring out the worst in people.

"Superbrat" McEnroe was a god. I loved the way he played, loved the way all that anger spilled out. It seemed so real, and yet if a golfer had carried on that way — unforgivable. As I said, sport is not a rational business.

The more McEnroe screamed and carried on at officials, the world, himself, the more I loved him. He was the bomb, even if it was the F-bomb. His pain was my pain.

In some ways, this McEnroe adulation is not totally rational. But when it comes to Mac the Strife, he gets a lifetime free pass.

As for Sharapova, no way. Everything about her drives me nuts.

Maybe it is the pitch and length of her screaming, which feels like a contrived drill through the ear drums, the heart, the soul. It has to be seen as a blatant and unfair tactic to get an edge, rather than an exclamation mark for effort. The positive meldonium test two years ago simply confirmed her capacity for duplicity.

Every Sharapova shot and scream is a public expression of self-obsession. Stuff the fans, stuff opponents' rights, it's all about the Mighty Maria.

She is, in my view, fairly or unfairly, guilty on every charge. And yet to be perfectly honest, I don't totally understand why this antipathy runs so deep. That's sport, and what makes it tick.


One of the reasons I watched a lot of the Sharapova-Kerber match was the lack of commentary on the other Sky Australian Open channels, including for what seemed a very impressive Novak Djokovic victory over Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

There will be some technical/rights/financial explanation for this, but it is bizarre-slash-unacceptable in the high subscription age that we get top sport without commentaries, especially for a game involving one of the best players in history even if his ranking has slipped after an injury break.

Tennis is awash with money. This is one of the biggest events of the year, one of the sport's most important shop windows.

In contrast, crickets tests are covered by a cast of thousands.

I stayed with the Djokovic match for a while, and at first the silence didn't seem to matter. But a feeling of being short changed started to arrive and the lack of analysis and context eventually persuaded me away. Bottom line: tennis matches need commentaries.