Is Tennis a Dying Sport?

Written by Mark Sampson
Last updated on

Tennis is not a dying sport, and the evidence backs this up. When it comes to TV views, prize money, attendance at live events, and coverage in news outlets, tennis is growing in popularity. 

Tennis in some of the traditional powerhouse countries, such as the US and the UK, is arguably not as popular as it used to be, but it remains a popular sport and is not dying off. 

Is tennis declining in popularity?

Tennis is not declining in popularity when considering the figures. Approximately 87 million people play tennis globally (equating to over 1% of the world population), meaning it is not in decline. 

Tennis remains one of the most watched sports, and when it comes to individual sports, it is one of the most popular. 

The recent golden era of tennis stars is coming to an end, especially with the retirement of legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams and the likes of Nadal and Djokovich in the twilight of their careers. This begs the question of where the next stars are coming from. Even the popularity of the above-mentioned legends was not the same as that of the stars of the 1970s. 

Are more kids playing tennis?

According to Forbes, tennis participation is rising, meaning more kids are playing tennis. It increased by 27.9% from 2019 to 2021. 

This has had a knock-on effect on the game as a whole, with more rackets being sold as kids become more engaged with the game. 

Tennis popularity in the United States

Tennis is a popular sport in the US, with over 20 million people playing year after year. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) states that over 3 million new players took to the court in 2020, an increase of 44% over new players in 2019. 

Additionally, over 4 million more people played tennis in 2020 compared to 2019. With the USTA funding over $10 million in 2020 alone, there is an ongoing commitment to increase the popularity, with more and more tennis players enjoying the game for the first time. 

Top 5 tennis states by popularity

The top 5 tennis states by popularity are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington DC, and Florida. This is based on Google trends data, showing where the most interest is in the sport.

Unsurprisingly, New York topped the table, as this is where the US Open Grand Slam is held every year. 

What does the future hold?

The future of tennis is uncertain, especially with many superstar players retiring or coming close to calling it a day. There are emerging talents, but it is hard to see which of the current top players will become a dominating force.

Tennis is facing its challenges, but grassroots tennis in the United Kingdom has seen a resurgence in North America. The solid following worldwide remains, which means it is too soon to retire the racket just yet. 

Tennis is still thriving in Australia and China, but players closer to home may need to appear in more Grand Slam finals before anyone can get as excited about the pro game as the Federer and Nadal era. 

FAQ

What country watches the most tennis?

The country with the most popular tennis broadcast is the United Kingdom. Wimbledon is regarded by many as the flagship tennis match on the calendar. Over 9.6 million people watched the UK broadcast to watch Djokovic beat Federer in their five-hour classes. To put this into context, ESPN had a total 0f 3.3 million viewers in the US, their third highest for tennis ever, 

Having a local star reach the late stages of a tournament always helps. Naturally, UK viewership swells when Andy Murray goes deep into a tournament, and the same applies to any country represented closer to the final.

In terms of search volumes, Bulgaria ranks high, and France is home to more than 10% of global searches for tennis. 

What percentage of Americans play tennis?

The percentage of Americans that play tennis is approximately 6.84%—equating to 23 million of the 336 million population in 2021. 

This is significantly higher than in previous years, showing that the popularity of tennis is on the rise

Is tennis the least popular sport?

Tennis is not the least popular sport, not by a long way. Niche sports that have nowhere near the same global popularity include Kabaddi (the national sport of Bangladesh) and Polo. Archery, sailing, weightlifting, and motocross are all significantly less popular than tennis. 

What was the golden age of tennis?

The open era as we know it today started in the UK in 1968. At this time, amateurs with pedigrees were allowed to compete against the pros. This got a lot of attention from the public, and the game grew from there.

Grand Slam titles started to go to famous players like Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe, who all made their names in the 70s.

Rivalries formed, drama ensued, and tennis’ popularity soared.

Conclusion

Tennis does not have the same popularity as it did in the heyday of the 1970s when it was on the front pages of the news, and there was frequent interest. 

However, tennis is not a dying sport, and the statistics back this up. With participation on the rise, the recreational side of the game is alive and well, even if there seems to be a lack of any true superstars on the horizon.