No one is still quite convinced of the legitimacy of Maria Sharapova' s grunting, which sounds part shriek of warning and part scream of effort. She grunts, loudly. Indeed, as noise goes her grunt is more appealing than the complaining drone of commentators. She's cheating, one said, suggesting you can't detect the ball coming off the strings, which tells pace and spin. Hogwash. Ask Nadia Petrova.

Some years ago Daddy Sharapov had so much to say to Petrova on court that Petrova's coach reportedly dumped him in a dustbin later. This year Petrova choked against Sharapova. If she wanted, she had a bone to pick. Still, she said of Sharapova's grunting: "I don't see any problem. Monica Seles did the same. I think no matter how hard you grunt, I think you can still hear the ball coming from the racquet, especially in the arena."

Sharapova, after her semi loss to Henin-Hardenne, was also queried on her father's hand signals from the box. Sideline coaching isn't allowed and Yuri Sharapov has been penalised before. But his daughter passed it off as a signal to tell her to drink water, and said anyway she plays by instincts and not by instruction.

Evidently frustrated by the constant attention, Sharapova suggested that journalists forget about fashion, grunt-o-meters, and the whole celebrity idea and focus on her tennis.

Of course, that is disingenuous, too, for the Russian belongs to IMG Models, has a scent named after her, makes money from her beauty, is aware the publicity raises her endorsement dollars, then cannot quite demand that people only look at her tennis.


The Indians made their own statement at the Open, Leander paes (32) and Mahesh Bhupathi (31) still demonstrating they are canny practitioners of the doubles arts. Paes' passion has not diminished and as he stood like some formidable knight at the net few might believe a few years ago he was hooked up to tubes fighting a lesion in his brain. Still, a trophy eluded him. After he and partner Nathalie Dechy slipped while ahead in their mixed semis, more heartbreak awaited. Partnering Martin Damm in a stupendous men's doubles final against the No.1 seeded Bryan brothers, the first set was won, the second lost, a break was given away in the third and despite a string of break points to get back they could not find that one shot that mattered and lost 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. But Bhupathi teamed up with Martina Hingis and took her to the mixed title. HENIN'S tears were many and she deserves the benefit of people believing they were genuine.