Tennis is facing a dire situation. On any given week (outside of majors), tennis often struggles to maintain public interest in the sport. What is particularly worrisome is the general public’s lack of interest in the Masters 1000 and Premier Mandatory events which happen across the tennis calendar. The most depressing aspect of it all is the vast number of empty seats inside stadiums- which are often visible to television viewers. In addition to this, discourse about tennis, whether digital or in-person, is almost non-existent for smaller tournaments. In terms of the general public, the utter lack of interest in watching tennis, most of the year, is the elephant in the living room, and the uncomfortable truth, which nobody wants to address.
The vast majority of the general public likely does not know, or care, that tennis exists outside of the majors, and this is a huge problem. It is a dire reality, and it is quite unfathomable that the general public’s interest in tennis is virtually non-existent outside of the majors. Even during peak periods in the calendar in the middle of majors, attention and interest towards lesser-known players can be minimal. It is not uncommon for the general public to be viewing a 3rd round match between 2 players= yet have no idea who they are. Over the years, there were often instances where the general public’s asked questions such as “when is Serena was coming on”- totally oblivious to the fact that Williams was not participating in that major. Some of the general public, in the midst of majors, may even ask when Nadal is playing Federer. That is almost completely indicative of a complete lack of awareness and interest in the sport.
However, can you really blame the general public for not following the tour given tennis is one of the least accessible sports in the world? In most countries, Masters 1000 tennis tournament are only available for viewing on cable or pay-tv television. In this regard, it appears that tennis has truly shot itself in the foot. There are simply too many hoops to jump over to watch the various levels of competition. In this regard, tennis is simply not watched enough.
On the men’s side, if one was to conduct a survey of the general public, one would also be hard-pressed to find anybody who could accurately name any of the current men’s top 10, outside of Nadal or Djokovic. Similarly, the average person likely would not be able to recognise names such as Paula Badosa, Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, or even Iga Swiatek. Outside of the four grand slams- which take place each year over a combined 8-week period, tennis seems to suffer gravely from a total lack of interest in the sport. Most casual viewers of the 4 grand slams often could not name a single tournament outside their home major. At best, they could likely name the 4 majors.
So all in all, what can be done to raise awareness for the tennis that is played 9 months a year outside of majors?