TORONTO - The decibel level surely reached a tournament-high Saturday night at the Rexall Centre.
And it had nothing to do with the size of the crowd.
Victoria Azarenka of Belarus was playing American Serena Williams in a battle of tennis grunters — Azarenka well-known for her drawn-out high-pitched wail, Williams more for a pure, guttural grunt.
Many fans have long called for grunting to be banned in tennis, because it's distracting, and Stacey Allaster, Canada's chairman and CEO of the WTA, said the issue is definitely on her radar.
"We have a hindrance rule," Allaster said in a news conference Saturday, prior to being inducted into the Rogers Cup Hall of Fame. "The reality of it is the athletes themselves are not coming to me say, we have an issue. (But) I'm very fan-centric and if there is a number of fans who are communicating with us that it's an issue, then it's something that we need to look at."
Azarenka's wail is the subject of numerous YouTube videos, with titles like "Hilarious Tennis Grunt" and "The Groans of Victoria Azarenka." Several fans in the stadium Saturday night mimicked the Belarusian's cry.
Allaster, a native of Windsor, Ont., said the chair umpire has the authority to implement a no-grunting rule if it's believed to be interfering with the competition.
The grunting is more prevalent in women's tennis, but "unfortunately it's just (women's) decibels are a little bit higher," Allaster said.
It would be difficult, she added, to change the behaviour of existing athletes such as Azarenka, because it's how they've trained and played their entire careers.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has been vocal about grunting, calling it a form of cheating, telling reporters in 2009 that "The grunting has reached an unacceptable level. It is cheating, pure and simple. It is time for something to be done."
Allaster pointed out that technology has amplified the grunting issue.