Tennis maintains its popularity in post Roger Federer-Serena Williams era
February 12th, 2024, Rishad Dsouza

Tennis maintains its popularity in post Roger Federer-Serena Williams era

In the world of sports, Roger Federer and Serena Williams are global brands, as big as any. So, when these two behemoths of the men and women’s game respectively rode into the sunset over the last couple of years, there was speculation about whether they would be taking a chunk of tennis fans with them. This hasn’t been the case, according to data from YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which tracks sports properties across multiple markets.

While Global Fan Profiles has now expanded to tracking over 50 markets, in this piece we focus only on the 38 markets that were tracked in 2021 for the sake of consistency. Tennis popularity has stayed nearly consistent across three full years – 14% of consumers across these markets said they followed tennis regularly in 2021 and this share stood at 15% in 2023.

This pattern has remained more or less constant across age groups. In fact, among those aged over 55, the share of those saying they follow tennis on a regular basis has risen slightly from 19% to 21%.

Tennis has done well to retain its share of fans in the first full year of absence for both of those players, showing that fans have stuck around for the game even if their favorites have exited the arena.

And favorites these players remain – we know this because we continued tracking their popularity in 2023. A quarter of tennis followers selected Roger Federer as one of their favorite tennis athletes (29%), while 19% chose Serena William. This makes Federer the joint-most popular men’s tennis player and Williams the most popular female tennis player. This in a year where they didn’t play a single competitive game.

So, who are other players that are keeping the tennis light burning bright? Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rafael Nadal (29%) and Novak Djokovic (23%) – both of whom now have more Grand Slam titles than Federer – have been key to the sport’s continued popularity. Andy Murray (13%) too continues to command a sizeable following among tennis fans, while Naomi Osaka (11%) has held the torch in the women’s arena in spite of not taking the court throughout 2023 due to pregnancy and the subsequent birth of her first child.

Among younger players on the men’s side, Alexander Zverev (7), Daniil Medvedev (7%), Carlos Alcaraz (6%) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (6%) also have a following across the globe.

Where is tennis most popular?

Tennis popularity is distributed quite unevenly across markets. In Spain, as many as three-tenths of all adults (30%) say they are regular followers of the sport whereas in the US just 8% of adults say the same.

USA’s other North American neighbours also score below the global average – Mexico (11%) and Canada (13%).

On the other hand, the sport tends to enjoy above-average popularity in European markets. At 9%, Germany stands out as an exception, coming in well below the global average.

Over in Asia, India (22%) and Saudi (18%) log higher numbers than the global average, whereas markets like Indonesia (8%), Singapore (8%) and Japan (11%) sit in the lower half.

Tennis has room for further growth, and the authorities have made their intentions clear to attract younger fans. How these ambitions play out is yet to be seen, but maintaining the popularity in a post-Roger Federer and Serena Williams world could perhaps be seen as a small win itself.

Make smarter business decisions with better intelligence. Understand exactly what your audience is thinking by leveraging our panel of 20 million+ members. Speak with us today.

Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles tracks the size, make-up, attitudes and behaviours of fan bases in 50+ markets around the world. Discover everything you need to know about fan bases globally. Learn more about Global Fan Profiles.