In January, we saw Michelle Larcher de Brito in Hong Kong for the JB Group Classic at Victoria Park. And when Wimbledon starts tomorrow, we still might be able to hear the Portuguese teenager. That's because Larcher de Brito - given a wild card entry into the grass-court grand slam - is now officially the Queen of Scream after having her grunts estimated at 109 decibels. The noise emanating from Larcher de Brito when she hits the ball is roughly equal to that of a Formula One car. She's overtaken Maria Sharapova as the loudest player in world tennis. Sharapova was measured a few years ago at 101 decibels: greater than a police siren or the landing of a small aircraft. Retired former world number one Monica Seles registered a relatively soothing 93.2 decibels. Larcher de Brito caused a stir in the third round of last month's French Open when opponent Aravane Reza?complained to the umpire about the other kind of racket coming from the opposite end. The Roland Garros crowd turned against her, Larcher de Brito lost the match and it all ended in tears. When asked about the court cacophony, the 16-year-old protested that it wasn't gamesmanship but simply an integral part of her style. 'It's almost like a rhythm, like when I hit a forehand or hit a backhand, the grunting is almost like a split step,' she said. 'It's part of my stroke. When I don't grunt, it just feels weird because it's just not me.' For Larcher de Brito and other lady loudmouths, including the Williams sisters, grunting has become like a war cry, with parallels to the combative sports of martial arts. But, in a non-contact sport like tennis, boisterous baseliners are pushing the boundaries of fair play. As anyone who's played at a reasonable level will tell you, being able to hear the ball off the strings of your opponent's racquet is almost as important as seeing the shot when it comes to judging pace, spin and slice. But that sense is taken away by vociferous Venus, screaming Sharapova and mouthy Michelle. 'You should try to play tennis with headphones on and not hear the ball hitting the ground or hitting your opponent's racquet to know what it's like,' said 18-times grand slam singles winner Martina Navratilova in a 2007 interview. 'They should outlaw it.' The offenders cleverly paint themselves as innocent 'victims' and insist the complaints only come when their rivals are losing. But despite what they might say, there's nothing involuntary about a backhand bellow or forehand fracas. They're up there with toilet breaks and tantrums as premeditated ways of upsetting an opponent's rhythm and momentum or gaining a psychological edge. Under the rules of tennis, excessive and intentional noise from a player is deemed illegal and can be dealt with, resulting in a point penalty from the chair umpire after a first warning. But given that the definition of 'excessive' relies on personal interpretation, officials have rarely intervened. To end any debate, a noise meter should be set up courtside at big tournaments. After one warning, if a player exceeds a reasonable level - say 70 decibels - the point penalty should be strictly enforced. With all its rich traditions and history of fair play, tennis still has some rules where there are grey areas and ambiguities. Players will exploit them where they can. But you can be sure the courts would suddenly get a lot quieter if an effective 'racket rule' were put in place. Complicating matters for officials is that Sharapova is the sport's number one superstar. The public just can't get enough of her, especially in Asia. Tennis needs the strident Siberian siren more than any other female player. Indeed, you could imagine how the WTA marketing gurus must have winced when Larcher de Brito complained to the umpire at Roland Garros that no one ever tells Sharapova to shut up. She had a valid point. The world 91, like Sharapova, moved from Europe to Florida at a young age and is a graduate from the same Bollettieri Tennis Academy that also produced Seles and other champions like Andre Agassi and Boris Becker. The home page of the Bollettieri website displays a photo of Sharapova celebrating a victory with a full-lunged scream. Director Nick Bollettieri said grunting wasn't taught to his students but it did help them release energy and maintain focus. However, he agreed it had become such an issue in the game that clear-cut regulations needed to be introduced. According to former Wimbledon referee Alan Mills, a counter-grunt culture has emerged with some lesser players mocking their blusterous big-name opponents on court by moaning even louder. But one wonders if that practice might actually put the counter-grunters off their game more than the ones they're targeting. The players, like the fans and the media, have had enough. One can only admire the skills of these lovely ladies of tennis as well as their larger-than-life personalities. But when rallies are in progress on the court, it's better that they are 'seen and not heard'.