Is Tennis Popular? (Expert Explains Using Statistics)

Tennis is one of the most famous sports globally and is played by many millions of people worldwide. With the increase in new racket sports, competition for the tennis sport is increasing. So, how popular is tennis? And, in which country is tennis most popular?

With approximately 87 million players worldwide, which is 1.17% of the world’s population, tennis is a very popular sport. Of all tennis players, 47% are female, and 53% are male, so tennis is almost equally popular with both genders. Tennis is also one of the most popular and most-watched sports on tv.

There is much more to be said about the popularity of tennis. For example, in this article, I will tell you in which countries tennis is most popular, but I will also tell you if tennis is gaining or losing popularity.

Tennis certainly is a popular sport. Many people worldwide like to play tennis, whether it’s just for a friendly game with friends or for more serious purposes.

There are many professional players, and there are even more amateur players.

Even people occasionally pick up a racket without knowing what they are supposed to do, simply because tennis is fun and relatively accessible.

Tennis is considered a popular sport worldwide, which is proven by the significant number of about 87 million people around the globe who (occasionally) play tennis.

47% are female, and 53% are male, so the sport is almost equally popular with both genders. Twenty percent of all those tennis lovers are from the United States alone.

Tennis is a sport accessible to many different people, contributing to its popularity. There are special wheelchair tennis tournaments, and people of any age can play the sport.

While most children and young adults like to play sports, in the United States, about 40% of the tennis players are above 35 years, and 10% of the players are even above 55 years.

With so many different people playing tennis, it’s often not very difficult to find someone to play with.

When looking at the popularity of tennis in the different continents, Asia is one that is worth mentioning.

In Asia, so many people are playing tennis that it makes up almost 40% of all tennis players globally.

This can partially be explained by the fact that there are many big countries in Asia, such as China and India.

Europe has the second most tennis players with a little over 31% of the total number of tennis players. North America comes in third with about 23%.

The continent with the least tennis players is Africa, responsible for only 0.1% of the world’s tennis players.

However, suppose you look at the percentage of the regional population which plays tennis. In that case, Asia is not responsible for the biggest percentage.

In fact, four continents have a higher percentage.

Oceania has the highest percentage of the regional population that plays tennis, with 6.2%. Secondly, North America has 5.7%. Europe has 3.2%, and we have Asia with only 0.8%.

Interestingly, the top three continents are the three continents in which the Grand Slams take place.

To determine the popularity of tennis in each country, I looked at how often people searched for the term tennis on Google.

Two countries clearly take the lead when looking at the number of ‘tennis’ searches per million people.

Those two countries are Australia and Bulgaria. Their numbers are far above any other country.

So where is tennis most popular?

Tennis is most popular in Bulgaria. With about 5080 searches per million people, this country shows the most interest in tennis. Australia comes in second as the country with the most interest in tennis, with 4980 searches per million people.

It’s also interesting that five of the countries in the top ten are in Europe.

The interest in tennis shown by Australia can partly be explained by the fact that they are the Australian Open host.

This Grand Slam tournament is very important in the tennis world, so a lot of the interest in tennis probably stems from this.

Bulgaria does not have a Grand Slam, but there is an important ATP tournament taking place in this country.

Another explanation for the popularity in Bulgaria might be that tennis player Grigor Dimitrov did quite well, reaching third place on the worldwide ranking back in 2017.

But what are the countries with the most tennis players?

Most tennis players (professional and amateur players combined) are from China, followed by the United States and India. This is not very surprising, as these countries have many inhabitants.

It is also interesting to note that the countries with the highest number of players are not necessarily the countries with the most facilities.

The United States is home to about 15.8% of the world’s tennis courts and 17.1% of the world’s tennis clubs.

This is not very surprising, nor are the following countries on the list of countries with the most tennis facilities.

But it gets interesting at the fourth and fifth place for the highest percentage of tennis clubs globally. These places are for Vietnam and Brazil, with 10.3% and 6.3% respectively.

As you have read, you can measure the popularity of tennis in a country in different ways. Therefore, there is no clear answer to give, but it is better to look at the whole.

So it just depends on which statistic you look at to get the answer to your question.

But let me summarize clearly:

  • According to Google's search traffic, tennis is most popular in Bulgaria, followed by Australia.
  • The country with the most tennis players is China, followed by the United States, and India.
  • The United States is the country with the most tennis facilities, with 15,8% of the world’s tennis courts and 17.1% of the world’s tennis clubs.

The Popularity of Tennis in The United States

Tennis is a popular sport across the globe, and it’s no different in the United States. Therefore, as many as twenty percent of all tennis players worldwide are from the United States.

Tennis is a popular sport in the United States. Among other reasons, this can be explained by the fact that the United States offers enough of everything needed for tennis.

There are plenty of tennis courts and tennis clubs, giving many people access to the sport.

So how popular is tennis in the United States?

Tennis is actually in the top 10 most played sports in the United States.

The United States hosts one of the four biggest tennis tournaments in the world.

The US Open takes place in New York, and tennis seems to be specifically popular in New York, which is no coincidence.

People in this area get confronted with tennis more than people who live in cities or even states that do not have any prestigious tennis tournaments.

Other areas that show a lot of interest in tennis are New Jersey, Connecticut, DC, and Florida.

Cities with many tennis facilities are San Diego, California, Atlanta, and Georgia.

How many people play tennis in the US?

Tennis is a popular sport in the United States and belongs to the top 10 most played sports in the country. About 17.84 million Americans play tennis, which is a lot.

Besides that, 9.67 million of those people play tennis more than ten times a year, making them’ core tennis players’.

About 55% of American tennis players are male, and about 45% are female.

The US states where tennis is most popular are New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Florida.

This is not a surprise, as these states all have tennis tournaments that attract a lot of great players.

In New York, the US Open takes place, which is one of the four Grand Slams. The other states have big WTA and ATP tournaments taking place.

Is Tennis Gaining or Losing Popularity?

Tennis is not losing a lot of popularity. For example, in the United States, tennis participation has increased by about 22 percent, according to data from the Physical Activity Council’s Participation report.

Tennis remains a sport accessible to many people, and that is popular all around the world.

The small amounts of tennis players we lose could be due to the rise of paddle and pickleball.

Paddle is a sport similar to tennis and squash and is becoming more and more popular every day.

Tennis players might switch to this sport, or people who would otherwise have started playing tennis might now opt for paddle instead.

Countries that might show interest in tennis for a longer time than others are the United States, England, France, and Australia.

If you want to get even more specific, you could narrow it down to New York, London, Paris, and Melbourne.

In these cities, the Grand Slams take place. The Grand Slams are the biggest and most important tournaments in tennis.

This means many people watch those tournaments both in person and on television or online.

It sustains the commercial side of the professional tennis world, so people interested in tennis (especially those living around the locations of those tournaments) get confronted with tennis a lot each year.

Europe is a continent that contributes significantly to the popularity of tennis and is home to many talents that play tournaments all over the world.

Based on the participation rate, the top five countries in which tennis is most popular are France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, and Spain, in that order.

Over the past few years, the number of players in France has grown, but the number of players in Germany and Italy stayed the same.

Great Britain had a decrease at first, but tennis regained popularity there. In Spain, there is a decrease in participation percentage.

Another factor that has to be mentioned is the pandemic. Sporting has become more difficult with the many different restrictions the world has had to live with.

Tennis is one of the sports least affected by the pandemic because it can be played with just two people who can remain at a safe distance.

A lot of people picked up a racket in these years when they could not go to their usual hockey or soccer practices.

Professionals could often play their matches without an audience, but many amateur sporters had to give up on their tournaments.

Therefore tennis has gained some popularity, but it is not certain if this will last once the pandemic is over.

Tennis is a sport with a lot of history. It has been mentioned in medieval literature, but what they knew as tennis is now known to us as real tennis, court tennis, or royal tennis.

It differs slightly from the lawn tennis that we play nowadays.

Tennis has evolved a lot over the years, as it used to be played with bare hands and later with a glove.

The racket was only introduced in the 16th century. The word racket was probably chosen for a reason, as it is likely that the word racket derives from the word rakhat.

Rakhat is an Arabic word meaning the palm of the hand, so that is an excellent reference to the initial form of tennis.

A country that has significantly contributed to the rise of tennis, is France. In France, King Francis I was a big fan of the sport, and so was his successor Henry II. They didn’t hide their love for the sport.

Later, another royal tennis enthusiast, King Charles IX, created the first pro tennis tour. King Charles IX established three levels, which were master, associate, and apprentice.

The rules were first written down and published by a Frenchman named Forbet. This all took place in the 16th century.

In England, though, during the 18th and 19th centuries, lawn tennis emerged. Lawn tennis is the form of tennis we play nowadays.

The big tournaments, or Grand Slams as we call them, were established around the beginning of the 20th century.

Wimbledon was the first one in 1877, then US Open in 1881, then the Australian Open in 1905, and then Roland Garros, which became a Grand Slam in 1925.

Then, in 1926, the first professional tour was established. Matches were played between French and American players, and there was a paying audience.

Tennis matches became events, and this helped the sport grow.

Big names from this time are Vinnie Richards and Suzanne Lenglen.

Before the Open Era, when players turned professional, they could not compete in the same tournaments as amateurs anymore.

This allegedly led to amateurs making money under the table, which eventually resulted in the start of the Open Era in 1968.

Now, any player could play any tournament, resulting in an international professional tennis circuit.

This circuit was followed by many people, which led to the selling of television rights and eventually online streams and such, which contributed significantly to the popularity of tennis.

More people came to know about it, so more people could get enthusiastic about the sport.

Another factor in the increasing popularity of tennis is the rise of tournaments.

Grand Slams have an enormous audience of fans who buy tickets to see their favorite players in action. The matches get broadcast all over the world.

People get enthusiastic by watching, and they talk about it to their friends and family, possibly getting them enthusiastic as well.

Next to the Grand Slams, the Davis Cup is an example of another tournament that causes popularity for tennis.

For the Davis Cup, the players and their team compete against each other under their country’s flag.

This creates a feeling of connection between fans and players, as they have something in common. In a lot of countries, people love to cheer on their fellow countrymen.

​​What is The Future of Tennis? 

Tennis is and will probably remain a popular sport. Even though paddle or pickleball might prove to be somewhat of a substitute, they are not nearly big enough yet to be considered a threat.

People will most likely keep playing a lot of tennis over the next few years, both professionally and for fun.

When it comes to the professionals, a big change is coming. Legendary players such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal are getting old. The new generation is already trying to take over.

It won’t be long until we enter this new phase with new top players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev.

Another point to be discussed is the pandemic.

As we do not know how far into the future we will have reached a point in which the virus isn’t as much of a threat anymore, it’s hard to say how this will affect tennis.

Many tournaments had to be canceled because of safety precautions. Still, some tournaments took matters into their own hands.

The Mutua Madrid Open, for example, couldn’t take place the usual way back in 2020. So they decided to create a virtual edition instead.

Esports are becoming increasingly more popular over the years, so this might eventually impact tennis as well.

Maybe there will be more virtual tennis tournaments, alongside physical ones, in the future.

Conclusion

Tennis is a sport that is popular worldwide. With 87 million players all over the globe, it is safe to say that the sport certainly is not hated.

It all started as court tennis and evolved into the lawn tennis we now know. There are many tournaments and four Grand Slams, which are partially responsible for the enormous popularity of tennis in New York and Australia.

While it is hard to predict the future, tennis will most likely be a sport to keep an eye on for many more years.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.
Published: 
December 12, 2021
Published: December 12, 2021