Larcher de Brito cuts down on volume at Wimbledon

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Michelle Larcher de Brito is well aware she's criticized for her loud shrieks on the court. And she has absolutely no intention of giving up the habit.

Updated: June 23, 2009 09:14 IST
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Wimbledon, England:

Michelle Larcher de Brito is well aware she's criticized for her loud, lengthy shrieks on the court. And she has absolutely no intention of giving up the habit.

There was speculation around the All England Club before her Wimbledon debut on Monday that officials would ask her to tone down her squealing. She said no one brought up the subject.

"I started grunting so long ago that I don't even remember when I started," the 16-year-old Larcher de Brito said after beating Klara Zakapalova 6-2, 7-5. "It's something I've always done, and I guess I'm going to keep doing it. It's part of my game, and I don't want to change it."

At the French Open last month, third-round opponent Aravane Rezai complained that Larcher de Brito was too loud. Since then, she has been the focus of newspaper stories on grunting and whether it's an unfair tactic designed to disturb the other player.

On Monday, her decibel level was way down, but the wild-card entry from Portugal said she didn't hush up on purpose. She said her volume is determined by the intensity of the match.

The No. 91-ranked Larcher de Brito has trained at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida since she was 9, and she has taken part in screech fests with famous grunter Monica Seles, who lives nearby.

"I do know Monica Seles, and I've already trained with her a couple of times," Larcher de Brito said. "When we practiced, also we grunted together."

Bollettieri said the time will likely come when Larcher de Brito will be asked to pipe down. He said she was disturbed by the brouhaha about her grunting at the French Open.

"It has not been easy for her," Bollettieri said Monday before Larcher de Brito's match. "So much happened, she almost broke down at the French. Yesterday, she said, 'You know, Nick, maybe they should bring iPods to the matches.' But she was just joking."

Tracy Austin, a two-time U.S. Open champion, said it will be difficult for Larcher de Brito to give up the grunting.

"I don't think she's doing it on purpose to intimidate or get a leg up on an opponent," Austin said. "But I think now that she has done it for so long, it's going to be hard for her to change."

Another teen prodigy, 15-year-old Laura Robson of England, doesn't grunt. She didn't think that was the reason she lost her first-round match Monday.

"It's such an unattractive sound, isn't it?" Robson said. "I mean, it's up to the individual whether they want to do it or not and whether they think it helps. But I don't think it helps that much if you're screaming 110 decibels."

Larcher de Brito's grunting was the main topic at her postmatch news conference, which eventually caused the staid moderator to say, "Perhaps we could move off the noise questions."

Larcher de Brito didn't require his assistance. She might be young, but she's definitely not bashful and was perfectly capable of shutting down the questions on her own.

"I grew up with two older brothers who pushed me around quite a bit, and I hate being pushed around," Larcher de Brito said. "I like standing up for myself. I like being strong because I am strong. That's my mentality, being tough, being feisty and fighting for what I believe in."

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