BBC tech tool aces annoying tennis grunters

Russia's Maria Sharapova returns the ball to China's Li Na during their semifinal match of the French Open tennis tournament, at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, June 2, 2011.
AP Photo/Christophe Ena

It's right up there with the sound of nails clawing a chalk board. Scratch that. It's far worse.

Each year, it seems, the on-court shrieks and grunting of professional tennis players gets louder and louder with seemingly no solution in sight. But now technology is coming to the rescue in what fed-up tennis fans will surely welcome as a hopeful harbinger. The BBC has announced a downloadable noise reduction product it calls Wimbledon Net Mix which will let people listening to the Wimbledon tennis tourney to control the decibel levels from the match. (It was co-developed with German technology firm Fraunhofer.

Wimbledon head to grunting female players: Hush

In a statement, the Beeb, which described the technology as an "experiment" said listeners will be able to "adjust the commentary level relative to the sound of the court: the crowd, base-line grunting and ball. For technical reasons the experiment will only be available during live coverage of matches from Center Court. The player may need manual configuration within some corporate firewalls.*

Wimbledon chief executive Ian Ritchie recently singled out women tennis players for overdoing it with the loud grunts, saying that it's spoiling he games for the fans. In an interview with Britain's Daily Telegraph, he said it would be "helpful to reduce the amount of grunting" that goes on.

"We are one tournament in a global circuit," he said. "But we have made our views clear and we would like to see less of it."

Amen to that.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.