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Wimbledon: Punish grunting? Give me a break, these guys are giving it their all out there


Wimbledon: Punish grunting? Give me a break, these guys are giving it their all out there


Dominika Cibulkova finally wins her match against Agnieszka Radwanska Getty

I’ve heard a lot of suggestions recently that Wimbledon should play tie-breaks in deciding sets. Holy cow! Why would anyone want to cut short the sort of drama that Dominika Cibulkova and Agnieszka Radwanska served up for us in their fourth-round match on Court Three?

This was one of the matches of the year so far. The result could have gone either way before Cibulkova won 6-3, 5-7, 9-7 after three hours of roller-coaster tennis. The athleticism of both women and the sweetness of their ball-striking was wonderful to watch. There were so many firecrackers exploding out there I thought for a moment that I was watching the annual Fourth of July pyrotechnics display back in New York. Right day, wrong place.

Some of the rallies from the back of the court were breath-taking, but it wasn’t all about power. Both women played some great drop shots and found some killing angles. Radwanska saved a match point in the second set and had one of her own in the 11th game of the decider before Cibulkova finally closed it out.

cibulkova-2.jpgDominika Cibulkova gave her all to claim victory on Monday (Getty)

As the match went on it got louder, too, with both girls grunting and shrieking as they strained every muscle in their bodies. Are there still people out there who think we should outlaw grunting?  Give me a break, buddy!

I know some people blame me for the grunting in modern-day women’s tennis – on the basis that some of the most famous shriekers came out of the IMG Academy which I founded in Florida – but I’ve never actually encouraged it. The point is, if you want to see the effort that Radwanska and Cibulkova put in here then there’s inevitably going to be some noise. Holy mackerel, I’d be amazed if anyone complained on this occasion.

There have been some memorable deciding sets at this Wimbledon, including Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beating John Isner 19-17 in the fifth and Lleyton Hewitt and Jordan Thompson finally overcoming Nicolas Almagro and David Marrero by the same score.

To those who think those sets should have been decided by tie-breaks I say this. Firstly, does anyone think it’s fair to settle epic contests like that with the tennis equivalent of a penalty shoot-out? And I don’t say that through gritted teeth because the Italian football team lost to Germany on penalties in the European Championship.

Secondly, those epic marathon matches provide some of the greatest Wimbledon memories.  Boy, if I’d had a dollar for every time someone asked me about the Isner-Mahut match here in 2010 I’d be richer than Donald Trump.

Incidentally, I still hear people ask why the women don’t play best-of-five sets and why they are paid the same prize money as men. This match was a good response to that argument because Cibulkova and Radwanska put more into that contest than many men put into five-set matches.

The big question for Cibulkova now – apart from whether she should change the date of her wedding this Saturday – will be whether she can recover within 24 hours for her quarter-final on Tuesday against Elena Vesnina, though the Russian also had to come through a long three-setter against Ekaterina Makarova.

Cibulkova said afterwards that it was the toughest match she had ever played, both physically and mentally. She’s a great fighter and a terrific athlete but she might have to convince herself that tiredness isn’t going to be a factor.

Each day this week I’m giving you a little tip on how to improve your own game. You’ll find plenty more like this on my website,

Today’s tip: don’t be afraid to use the drop shot. It’s often a natural instinct for players to hit every ball as hard as they can. That’s all well and good – assuming that you put the ball in the court – but it’s not the only way to play.

When your opponent is standing 10 feet behind the baseline, why try to hit the ball through them? Hit the drop shot instead. What do you mean the drop shot is for cissies? Try telling Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic that they’re cissies. They know that if you choose the right moment a drop shot can be just as effective as the biggest forehand.

It’s one of the most dangerous weapons you can use in the modern game. For one thing, why do you think your opponent is standing 10 feet behind the baseline? It’s because they don’t want to come into the net. They’re retrievers who just want to keep making you hit the extra ball. Boy, just bring ’em into where they don’t want to be.

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