Well, Maria Sharapova just won her first-round US Open match—after an impressive three-set struggle from 19-year-old Brit Heather Watson.Watson was the picture of quiet and manners the whole match.
Sharapova, meanwhile, was her usual shrieking, screaming, fist-pumping self.
There’s nothing wrong with the fist-pumping. (It’s a bit cliche, but whatever).
But there’s everything wrong with the shrieking and screaming.
As anyone who has ever seen Sharapova play knows, we’re not talking about the occasional whoop after winning an important point. We’re talking about full-bodied shrieks and screams after EVERY STROKE IN EVERY POINT.
Shrieks that resound long after the ball leaves Sharapova’s racket.
Shrieks that have no utility other than to try to send a message to the woman on the other side of the net that Sharapova has just hit the living shit out of the ball.
According to US Davis Cup coach Patrick McEnroe, who weighed in on this issue after the match, Sharapova doesn’t scream like this in practice. That means her shrieking is not a weird, uncontrollable physical defect. That means that Sharapova is doing it intentionally (if unconsciously by now) and that she could stop doing it if someone with some authority told her to stop doing it.
That authority should be the USTA.
Sharapova’s screaming is just a bogus physical intimidation technique—like a howl with a karate chop—and it should be banned. And Sharapova shouldn’t be singled out here: All the other screamers and shriekers on the tour–including the Williams sisters, who first popularised this method of intimidation–should be muzzled, too.
The penalty for shrieking should be the same penalty as for any other unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis: WARNING, POINT PENALTY, FORFEIT.
If the USTA implemented that rule and stuck to it, Sharapova would finally shut up.
And watching her matches would be vastly more fun as a result.