ISTANBUL - The WTA has quietly begun testing noise levels at tournaments as it explores how to rid the sport of unwarranted grunting.
In an interview Saturday with USA TODAY Sports, WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster said the tour had initiated audio tests with on-court measuring devices at tournaments. She gave scant specifics.
"We have begun to do the audio testing, and we have begun it in this quarter of 2013," Allaster said on Saturday at the WTA Championships.
Allaster said the tour had engaged an unnamed research firm with expertise in urban noise levels to assist with the gathering of data. She said it was too early to discuss details or timelines about how the research would be collected, measured and presented.
"There is more data to be done, there's more assessment to be done on the different audible levels," she said. "There are a variety of different environments that you need to assess the audible levels - indoor buildings, outdoor buildings, small venues, different surfaces, etc."
The tour has addressed excessive grunting after public criticism from players and negative feedback from media and fans. Some of its top players such as Maria Sharapova, Victoria Azarenka and Serena Williams are among the worst offenders.
At the 2012 Wimbledon, officials unveiled a three-pronged plan aimed at curbing offensive levels of noise via technology, rule changes and education - including the possible development of a hand-held "grunt-o-meter" device for umpires.
For now, the focus remains on education.
Allaster said the tour had spoken with 750 kids, adults and parents through nearly 20 academy outreach programs and is working with Tennis Australia, which has applied for a university grant to study grunting.
It is also looking at ways to correlate broadcast tapes with data from its new software analytics partner, SAP, to see if harder strokes are producing louder sounds.
"We are now moving into more of the data and the scientific stream to see where we net out on it," Allaster said.
Unlike 2011, when then-No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki complained openly at the tour's year-end tournament that some players grunted on purpose and called for officials to curb it, so far this year the topic has not come up.
"We are committed to the strategy to drive excessive grunting out of the game," Allaster said, "and we believe it's through the next generation."