Who are the most popular players in history?

octogon

Hall of Fame
My list would be:

Federer
Serena
Agassi
Sharapova
Sampras
Mac

If we are talking worldwide recognition based on name value and nothing else. People are likely to know those 5 people regardless of how they feel about them. Now, if you are under 25, that list might start to change.

It makes no sense not to have Nadal there. He has the biggest social media following in Tennis. In terms of objective numbers, Nadal is the most popular player in the world (male or female) and has been for years. These are hard numbers, not anecdotes about some of your neighbours not knowing who Nadal is.

The media have done an amazing job brainwashing people into believing Federer is more popular than Nadal. If he was, his social media numbers would reflect this. They don't.
 

Hitman

Legend
No one is saying Pete wasn't extremely famous and well supported. But as far back as 2010, Rafa was getting the "Rock Star" treatment from American Tennis fans, typically reserved for Agassi and Borg. The article below talks about Rafa in New York in 2010, with throngs of girls screaming his name and long lines of fans waiting to meet him. I think Rafa had the looks and on court swag that made him more of a rock star for American fans than Pete. But maybe you are right, and I'm underestimating the adulation Pete recieved.


I think Rafa's popularity in general is sometimes underestimated (relative to Fed), because the media has always had a bigger hard-on for Federer, and their coverage always slants toward him (and Fed's fans spam and bot popularity contest polls more than any fanbase). But when you look at social media following, Nadal has the biggest in mens Tennis, which in objective terms, would make him most popular player in the mens game today, not Federer.

Even I'm sometimes brainwashed by the Pro-Federer media coverage. But at the very least Federer and Nadal are equally popular, with a real claim to Nadal being more popular based on social media following.
Look, I am not saying Nadal isn't popular in the States, heck I would say globally he is more popular than Sampras, but he is below Sampras as far as popularity in the States goes. I saw the whole thing first hand, and remember it very well. This isn't a knock on Nadal, it is clear that guy is very well loved the world over. Its like saying Federer isn't as loved as Nadal in Spain, not really a knock, it just is what it is.
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
Look, I am not saying Nadal isn't popular in the States, heck I would say globally he is more popular than Sampras, but he is below Sampras as far as popularity in the States goes. I saw the whole thing first hand, and remember it very well. This isn't a knock on Nadal, it is clear that guy is very well loved the world over. Its like saying Federer isn't as loved as Nadal in Spain, not really a knock, it just is what it is.
Maybe. Everyone talks anecdotally though, which is the problem. Seeing things first hand is nice, but numbers are even better.

In terms of pure numbers based evidence (Social Media Following), we know Nadal is the most popular player alive. But most people here would disagree and say Federer, because anecdotal statements and traditional media based coverage tend to always suggest it's Federer (whose social media following does not match Nadal's). People struggle with the concept of Nadal being more popular than Fed, even though numbers actually back it up.
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
Globally, it's Federer and Borg at the top of the list,

and then the rest.
Why does Fed have a smaller social media following than Nadal, if he is more popular?

Nadal appeals to more people, imho. I definitely think the media has always promoted Federer as being more popular, but the fact that it never translated into superior social media following numbers over Nadal is pretty telling.
 

TMF

Talk Tennis Guru
Why does Fed have a smaller social media following than Nadal, if he is more popular?

Nadal appeals to more people, imho. I definitely think the media has always promoted Federer as being more popular, but the fact that it never translated into superior social media following numbers over Nadal is pretty telling.
Social media doesn't define who's more popular. There are many people who don't even have a twitter account, let alone twitter every day.
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
Social media doesn't define who's more popular. There are many people who don't even have a twitter account, let alone twitter every day.

I'm sorry, but that is nonsense. When two people both have the same social media platforms (as Federer and Nadal do) then you can directly compare their popularity by their follower counts.

We know Cristiano Ronaldo is more popular than Lionel Messi (even though the media might favor Messi more) because their social media followings tell us so.

There's a saying...men lie, women lie, numbers don't lie. Nadal is more popular than Fed, but the media have done a great job making us believe otherwise over the years. To the point where people refuse to believe it, even when you throw objective factual numbers like social media counts at them.
 

TMF

Talk Tennis Guru
I'm sorry, but that is nonsense. When two people both have the same social media platforms (as Federer and Nadal do) then you can directly compare their popularity by their follower count.

We know Cristano Ronaldo is more popular than Lionel Messi (even though the media might favor Messi more) because their social media followings tell us so.

There's a saying...men lie, women lie, numbers don't lie. Nadal is more popular than Fed, but the media have done a great job making us believe otherwise over the years. To the point where people refuse to believe it, even when you throw objective factual numbers like social media counts at them.
I disagree. Using social media to define who's more popular is completely misleading. Nadal could have 5 fans who has twitter account while Federer could have 100 fans with no account. I'm quite confident that Federer has way more fans across the globe than Nadal. Nadal is distant second and third is Nole.

Fans flock to see Federer play. There's a reason why Federer gets to play on center court most of the time, and schedule to play at prime time. There's no denying that Federer attractive fans the most. Case closed !
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
I disagree. Using social media to define who's more popular is completely misleading. Nadal could have 5 fans who has twitter account while Federer could have 100 fans with no account. I'm quite confident that Federer has way more fans across the globe than Nadal. Nadal is distant second and third is Nole.

Fans flock to see Federer play. There's a reason why Federer gets to play on center court most of the time, and schedule to play at prime time. There's no denying that Federer attractive fans the most. Case closed !

You gave absolutely no meaningful evidence with this post. Shouting "Case Closed" like you just proved something seems silly to me. You gave a Fanboy response, not the response of someone seriously trying to challenge another point of view in a debate and win.

I came with cold hard numbers. You need to do better to convince.
 

Hitman

Legend
Maybe. Everyone talks anecdotally though, which is the problem. Seeing things first hand is nice, but numbers are even better.

In terms of pure numbers based evidence (Social Media Following), we know Nadal is the most popular player alive. But most people here would disagree and say Federer, because anecdotal statements and traditional media based coverage tend to always suggest it's Federer (whose social media following does not match Nadal's). People struggle with the concept of Nadal being more popular than Fed, even though numbers actually back it up.
Well, just to conclude the discussion on Pete, I was there and saw Sampras' popularity day in day out for over a decade, so I know just where he stood. The US was looking for their next big player after the golden era of the 70s and early 80s, and he came along. As much as Nadal is a fan fav, he will take a back seat to Pete in the US. Everywhere else, I can see Nadal ahead, and overall globally I see Nadal ahead. No need to say anymore from me, since I actually lived it.

As far as Federer is concerned, now we are having a different discussion here. In social media, you are absolutely right, Nadal has the largest following of them all, and if you want to use just those to decide who is more popular then you can. I think Nadal is immensely popular, heck I saw this guy live back in 2003 at the USO and even though he lost the match, everyone was talking about him. I remember he left his mark on me and many others. But I am not really here to debate Nadal's popularity v Federer's just saying that I disagreed with the original list of having Nadal over Sampras in the US popularity list, again, that is not a shot at Nadal, Federer would be below Nadal in Spain, and that wouldn't mean Federer isn't popular in Spian, just not as much as Nadal and that is a fair assessment too.
 

TMF

Talk Tennis Guru
You gave absolutely no meaningful evidence with this post. Shouting "Case Closed" like you just proved something seems silly to me. You gave a Fanboy response, not the response of someone seriously trying to challenge another point of view in a debate and win.

I came with cold hard numbers. You need to do better to convince.

Your pointless social media numbers mean squat to me, because that's a wrong way to determine who's more popular.

It's the player who attracts the most viewers globally, more tickets are sold to watch a certain player, and director of the tournament decides who will be playing on center court and prime time. Nadal is always behinds Federer's massive shadow!
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
Your pointless social media numbers mean squat to me, because that's a wrong way to determine who's more popular.

It's the player who attracts the most viewers globally, more tickets are sold to watch a certain player, and director of the tournament decides who will be playing on center court and prime time. Nadal is always behinds Federer's massive shadow!
This is ridiculous. Nadal has played in slam finals that attracted more viewership than when Fed played. They both sell tickets everywhere they go. Nadal's practice sessions get more people turning up to watch than many players actual matches. Nadal is a huge prime time draw.

Dismissing social media numbers because they don't favor Fed, tells me all I need to know. We all know in the modern world (when the people being compared have the same socials) it's the fairest and most legitimate way to compare popularity.
 

RaulRamirez

Hall of Fame
Well, just to conclude the discussion on Pete, I was there and saw Sampras' popularity day in day out for over a decade, so I know just where he stood. The US was looking for their next big player after the golden era of the 70s and early 80s, and he came along. As much as Nadal is a fan fav, he will take a back seat to Pete in the US. Everywhere else, I can see Nadal ahead, and overall globally I see Nadal ahead. No need to say anymore from me, since I actually lived it.

As far as Federer is concerned, now we are having a different discussion here. In social media, you are absolutely right, Nadal has the largest following of them all, and if you want to use just those to decide who is more popular then you can. I think Nadal is immensely popular, heck I saw this guy live back in 2003 at the USO and even though he lost the match, everyone was talking about him. I remember he left his mark on me and many others. But I am not really here to debate Nadal's popularity v Federer's just saying that I disagreed with the original list of having Nadal over Sampras in the US popularity list, again, that is not a shot at Nadal, Federer would be below Nadal in Spain, and that wouldn't mean Federer isn't popular in Spian, just not as much as Nadal and that is a fair assessment too.
It's so hard to compare Pete and Rafa's popularity in the US as their careers did not overlap. Is it fair to say that Pete was huge at the US Open venue itself (but more than Andre, I'm not sure), but it didn't really translate off-court - no personal charisma. I know this is very superficial, but it plays a large part in popularity. Fed, Borg, Andre, Rafa, Mac and Connors (though Mac and Jimbo were quite polarizing) and a few others have/had that "it" factor.
 
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Hitman

Legend
It's so hard to compare Pete and Rafa's popularity in the US as their careers did not overlap. Is it fair to say that Pete was huge at the US Open venue itself (but more than Andre, I'm not sure), but it didn't really translate off-court - no personal charisma. I know this is very superficial, but it plays a large part in popularity. Fed, Borg, Andre, Rafa, Mac and Connors (though polarizing) and a few others have/had that "it" factor.
Off court you speak? Pete and Andre's rivalry took both of them to the next level, Nike made a fortune off of them, and they were selling out during the peak of their rivalry back in the mid 90s. Pete was the opposite to Agassi, and that made for gripping tennis, not just on the court but with all the stuff off the court. And when you have two opposites like them who were also seen as monstrous champions, you will capture the imagination of a generation.

Sampras v Agassi was the rivalry of the 90s, and it wasn't just because of the play on the court, Nike marketed it perfectly. Sampras was all over the media. He was rocketed to the top in 1990 and stayed there. Nadal is great, but he will be behind Pete in US, I have no doubt of this.

 

RaulRamirez

Hall of Fame
Off court you speak? Pete and Andre's rivalry took both of them to the next level, Nike made a fortune off of them, and they were selling out during the peak of their rivalry back in the mid 90s. Pete was the opposite to Agassi, and that made for gripping tennis, not just on the court but with all the stuff off the court. And when you have two opposites like them who were also seen as monstrous champions, you will capture the imagination of a generation.

Sampras v Agassi was the rivalry of the 90s, and it wasn't just because of the play on the court, Nike marketed it perfectly. Sampras was all over the media. He was rocketed to the top in 1990 and stayed there. Nadal is great, but he will be behind Pete in US, I have no doubt of this.

I was in the US (still am, boring life) and well remember that era. They were certainly both marketed well to their strengths/types, but whereas AA had memorable (if kind of tacky) ads of his own, I don't recall much, if any, of Pete's ads without Andre. Tennis fans knew that Pete was the greater player, but Andre was more of a household celebrity.

That said, I could see Pete over Rafa in the US.
 

Hitman

Legend
I was in the US (still am, boring life) and well remember that era. They were certainly both marketed well to their strengths/types, but whereas AA had memorable (if kind of tacky) ads of his own, I don't recall much, if any, of Pete's ads without Andre. Tennis fans knew that Pete was the greater player, but Andre was more of a household celebrity.

That said, I could see Pete over Rafa in the US.

Agassi was the bigger name, that is the truth, but his rivalry with Sampras made sure the two of them stood at the top of the podium in the 90s.
 

thrust

Hall of Fame
Sampras was never truly beloved anywhere, even in America. He was grudgingly admired at best, while Agassi was treated as a rock star by American audiences.

I do think you can make a case for Nadal being more popular/beloved with American fans than Sampras. The whole Fedal thing is a global phenomenon, and that includes America. You can argue Federer being more popular, but Nadal gets almost as much affecton everywhere he goes as well.

I wouldn't argue Nadal being more liked than Agassi in America though.
You are wrong about Sampras in America. Agassi craved press attention, Pete did not but real tennis fans preferred Pete's tennis to Andre's. Pete was just as popular as Agassi, from what I recall.
 

TMF

Talk Tennis Guru
This is ridiculous. Nadal has played in slam finals that attracted more viewership than when Fed played. They both sell tickets everywhere they go. Nadal's practice sessions get more people turning up to watch than many players actual matches. Nadal is a huge prime time draw.

Dismissing social media numbers because they don't favor Fed, tells me all I need to know. We all know in the modern world (when the people being compared have the same socials) it's the fairest and most legitimate way to compare popularity.

No it's not ridiculous. You're just the minority here. Federer attracts more viewer(except in Spain) and I'm confident that vast majority of tennis fans agree with me.

Also Federer is more popular because he has way more endorsement deals, companies attracts star power and popularity. This is the reason why Michael Jordan is the wealthiest athlete, because without a doubt he's the most famous/popular basketball player, arguably the most popular athlete of all time. Federer is the most famous/popular tennis player, simple as that.
 

Lleytonstation

G.O.A.T.
I disagree. Using social media to define who's more popular is completely misleading. Nadal could have 5 fans who has twitter account while Federer could have 100 fans with no account. I'm quite confident that Federer has way more fans across the globe than Nadal. Nadal is distant second and third is Nole.

Fans flock to see Federer play. There's a reason why Federer gets to play on center court most of the time, and schedule to play at prime time. There's no denying that Federer attractive fans the most. Case closed !
I dont have any social media except this... I am a Fed fan...
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
No it's not ridiculous. You're just the minority here. Federer attracts more viewer(except in Spain) and I'm confident that vast majority of tennis fans agree with me.

Also Federer is more popular because he has way more endorsement deals, companies attracts star power and popularity. This is the reason why Michael Jordan is the wealthiest athlete, because without a doubt he's the most famous/popular basketball player, arguably the most popular athlete of all time. Federer is the most famous/popular tennis player, simple as that.
Floyd Mayweather never had any endorsement deals in his career. In terms of people who would pay to watch him, and social media following, he's arguably the most popular boxer ever (polarizing, but popular)

Federer gets more endorsements because he chases more endorsements. His team are about that. It"s very clear to me that Nadal has no interest in being the richest tennis player. If he was all about the money to that extent, I feel he could easily sign a load of sponsorship deals to match Fed's portfolio, but he seems happy to have long term relationships with a few trusted brands, and not go with everyone willing to give him a big check.

The vast majority of tennis fans have been lied to by the media, so sure they might agree with you. But social media numbers prove Nadal is the most popular player alive, not Fed.
 

Lleytonstation

G.O.A.T.
Federer gets more endorsements because he chases more endorsements. His team are about that. It"s very clear to me that Nadal has no interest in being the richest tennis player. If he was all about the money to that extent, I feel he could easily sign a load of sponsorship deals to match Fed's portfolio, but he seems happy to have long term relationships with a few trusted brands, and not go with everyone willing to give him a big check.
Agree with this, there is no debating Rafa has massive following. I consider popular as "name recognition." If that is the case, more people know who Fed is.
 

octogon

Hall of Fame
Agree with this, there is no debating Rafa has massive following. I consider popular as "name recognition." If that is the case, more people know who Fed is.

I disagree about name recognition. For me, their names are so inextricably linked together as rivals, that it feels almost impossible to have heard about Federer, without knowing who Nadal is, and visa versa. Their name recognition has to be virtually equal. Their names are tied to each other in the same way as Ronaldo and Messi.
 

Hitman

Legend
One for Fedal fans...

IMO, both Federer and Nadal helped each other to increase their popularity. Both would still have been popular without the other, but they both were better because of each other. Fedal fans should celebrate this, because only a few rivalries in sports can capture the imagination of the world.
 

Lleytonstation

G.O.A.T.
One for Fedal fans...

IMO, both Federer and Nadal helped each other to increase their popularity. Both would still have been popular without the other, but they both were better because of each other. Fedal fans should celebrate this, because only a few rivalries in sports can capture the imagination of the world.
Yep, I was a Fed fan who despised Rafa early on, then he gained my respect by about 2012ish, then I started to like him a bit, and now I truly like Rafa a lot. You see the rivalry, and it draws you to both of them. The definitely helped each other on and off the court and their legacy will show it.
 

RaulRamirez

Hall of Fame
One for Fedal fans...

IMO, both Federer and Nadal helped each other to increase their popularity. Both would still have been popular without the other, but they both were better because of each other. Fedal fans should celebrate this, because only a few rivalries in sports can capture the imagination of the world.
Agreed, which (as discussed, of course) also has kind of boxed Novak out and painted him as the third wheel, despite Novak playing more matches against both of them. The "Fedal" brand has cast too large of a shadow in that respect.
 

Hitman

Legend
Yep, I was a Fed fan who despised Rafa early on, then he gained my respect by about 2012ish, then I started to like him a bit, and now I truly like Rafa a lot. You see the rivalry, and it draws you to both of them. The definitely helped each other on and off the court and their legacy will show it.
Agreed, which (as discussed, of course) also has kind of boxed Novak out and painted him as the third wheel, despite Novak playing more matches against both of them. The "Fedal" brand has cast too large of a shadow in that respect.
Often wonder why Fedal fans aren't more united, as it is clear Federer and Nadal are more than most.
 

RaulRamirez

Hall of Fame
Often wonder why Fedal fans aren't more united, as it is clear Federer and Nadal are more than most.
As you know, I truly consider myself a tennis fan first and foremost, and well preceding this era.
I'm peculiar here (I think) in that I root for Rafa and Novak equally, but try to never detract from Fed - who I admire and like quite a bit.
Oh, I engage in debates, but mostly get set off by dumb arguments and talking points from whoever they support or detract from.
 

Lleytonstation

G.O.A.T.
As you know, I truly consider myself a tennis fan first and foremost, and well preceding this era.
I'm peculiar here (I think) in that I root for Rafa and Novak equally, but try to never detract from Fed - who I admire and like quite a bit.
Oh, I engage in debates, but mostly get set off by dumb arguments and talking points from whoever they support or detract from.
That is rare, someone who likes all 3. Good for you. For me, tennis will always be first, because for me it is a lifelong hobby, and eventually my favorites will retire and are absent from tourneys. Plus, there will always be someone to be a fan of, although I have been lucky with Sampras and Fed.

The tour, and following it is just pure fun. That is why I still will watch 250's and my wife gets mad at me for it.
 

RaulRamirez

Hall of Fame
That is rare, someone who likes all 3. Good for you. For me, tennis will always be first, because for me it is a lifelong hobby, and eventually my favorites will retire and are absent from tourneys. Plus, there will always be someone to be a fan of, although I have been lucky with Sampras and Fed.

The tour, and following it is just pure fun. That is why I still will watch 250's and my wife gets mad at me for it.
I still get wrapped up in who wins and loses matches - and can be quite vociferous while doing so - but I love the game, itself, and enjoy most players. I'm not always philosophical right after a tough match that "my player" loses, but I've gotten better at putting it all in perspective. Per The Big 3, watching Fed's emergence was a revelation, but Nadal just jumped off the screen the first time I saw him, so I largely saw the tour through his eyes. I always liked Novak, and was drawn to (don't laugh, as it's harder to say right now) his intelligence, humor and a lot of great personal qualities - as well as his tennis. It occurred to me quite a few years ago, that while everyone was debating Fed and Rafa, the third wheel was actually just as good, if not better. If you're an NFL fan, I said the same about Aaron Rodgers - and while everyone was debating Manning and Brady). But per The Big 3, while I do the GOAT debate thing (my position: essentially, there are tri-Goats of the Open Era), there could be many worse things for this tennis fan than Roger holding onto his records...He's a very special athlete, player and lover of the sport - I just root more for the other two.

My wife, for all her good qualities, is not a sports fan (of anything, as I am of most things, tennis, the four major US pro sports, some college BB and FB, a little golf, Olympics, etc.). She thinks I'm nuts - and raises a good point.
 

skaj

Hall of Fame
The feeling is that (as in every other sport) every continent has a different impression.

My observation tells me that in North America:
1) Federer
2) Connors
3) McEnroe
4) Nadal
5) Borg

In West-Europe
1) Federer
2) Borg
3) Nadal
4) Laver
5) McEnroe

In East-Europe
1) Federer
2) Djokovic
3) Nadal
4) .....
5) .....

On other continents? (South America, Asia....)

Discuss.
Connors number 2, anywhere? o_O Scary...
 

skaj

Hall of Fame
The feeling is that (as in every other sport) every continent has a different impression.

My observation tells me that in North America:
1) Federer
2) Connors
3) McEnroe
4) Nadal
5) Borg

In West-Europe
1) Federer
2) Borg
3) Nadal
4) Laver
5) McEnroe

In East-Europe
1) Federer
2) Djokovic
3) Nadal
4) .....
5) .....

On other continents? (South America, Asia....)

Discuss.
Sampras and Agassi are/were not popular enough to be in the top 5 for North America?
 

TTMR

Hall of Fame
Tennis was significantly more popular in the 70s and 80s. Borg was much more recognizable to John Q. Public than somebody like Sampras, or even Agassi. Borg was more popular than American players in America. Hard to compare with Federer. Federer is more popular among tennis fans, but there's way less tennis fans than there used to be. Where I live, if you showed random people a picture of Federer, probably over half would say "Oh yeah......it's that guy". I've played tennis with people who didn't know who Roger Federer was.
 

Hitman

Legend
As you know, I truly consider myself a tennis fan first and foremost, and well preceding this era.
I'm peculiar here (I think) in that I root for Rafa and Novak equally, but try to never detract from Fed - who I admire and like quite a bit.
Oh, I engage in debates, but mostly get set off by dumb arguments and talking points from whoever they support or detract from.
Here's my view. I root for Novak, but between Federer and Nadal, game wise I prefer to watch Federer, because I was a Sampras fan first, and Sampras is my all time fav guy, and I saw elements of Pete's game in Federer, so I have natural soft spot for him, based on respect and admiration. Rafa I like also, probably because I was more neutral to the Fedal rivalry before Djokovic came on board and also because I have watched Rafa play live back in USO 2003, and took a liking to him and saw him live before I saw Federer and the others, eventually I saw everyone of them live. I actually thought Rafa was going to be my guy at one point, but I didn't like that he changed his game to make it more clay centric, I liked the Rafa that first burst onto the scene. So playing styles between Fed and Rafa has me leaning more to Fed, but overall, both are such great guys, who can not appreciate what they bring?
 

Fedforever

Hall of Fame
Well, just to conclude the discussion on Pete, I was there and saw Sampras' popularity day in day out for over a decade, so I know just where he stood. The US was looking for their next big player after the golden era of the 70s and early 80s, and he came along. As much as Nadal is a fan fav, he will take a back seat to Pete in the US. Everywhere else, I can see Nadal ahead, and overall globally I see Nadal ahead. No need to say anymore from me, since I actually lived it.

As far as Federer is concerned, now we are having a different discussion here. In social media, you are absolutely right, Nadal has the largest following of them all, and if you want to use just those to decide who is more popular then you can. I think Nadal is immensely popular, heck I saw this guy live back in 2003 at the USO and even though he lost the match, everyone was talking about him. I remember he left his mark on me and many others. But I am not really here to debate Nadal's popularity v Federer's just saying that I disagreed with the original list of having Nadal over Sampras in the US popularity list, again, that is not a shot at Nadal, Federer would be below Nadal in Spain, and that wouldn't mean Federer isn't popular in Spian, just not as much as Nadal and that is a fair assessment too.
I'm not sure the (sensible) people who stay away from tennis social media appreciate how big the Fedal brand is now - so there's effectively a third person in the popularity stakes. It's becoming pretty rare to find animosity these days. Those people who aren't Fedal fans just moan about those that are rather than reigniting the old wars.

If they deliberately set out to create a juggernaut brand that no...ahem..... upstart third player could ever compete with then they did a pretty good job. ;)
 

Hitman

Legend
I'm not sure the (sensible) people who stay away from tennis social media appreciate how big the Fedal brand is now - so there's effectively a third person in the popularity stakes. It's becoming pretty rare to find animosity these days. Those people who aren't Fedal fans just moan about those that are rather than reigniting the old wars.

If they deliberately set out to create a juggernaut brand that no...ahem..... upstart third player could ever compete with then they did a pretty good job. ;)
I see your point. Many new fans missed the height of the Fedal war, and see them more as they are now. They didn't pick sides, and just appreciate the two as the legends that they are.
 

Backspin1183

G.O.A.T.
One for Fedal fans...

IMO, both Federer and Nadal helped each other to increase their popularity. Both would still have been popular without the other, but they both were better because of each other. Fedal fans should celebrate this, because only a few rivalries in sports can capture the imagination of the world.
Great post!
If not for the popularity of the Fedal rivalry, I wouldn't have gotten so much into tennis. I did play tennis but spending so much of my time watching tennis matches just wasn't my cup of tea. I used to watch some videos of pros just to learn from them and to improve my game.

I had liked Federer but still found watching tennis to be boring. Because he was winning every damn thing!
Then came the Nadal and tennis was never boring again!! :D

 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
I lived in America in the 90s, so I speak from first hand experience. Sampras was massive, and unless you lived in the States in 90s you will never truly know. He had a rocket pack on his back after USO 90, I saw this whole thing unfold, he was very popular. The only thing was Agassi was more popular than him due to his flamboyant style.
People forget how much of a globally known name Sampras was. It's true that he was never a rock star in the way that Borg or Agassi was, or a regal diplomat like Federer is.

However, he'll always remain a revered name in the sport simply due to the fact that he defined a decade in the men's game, and his achievements will never be written out of the record books.
 

merlinpinpin

Hall of Fame
But social media numbers prove Nadal is the most popular player alive, not Fed.
Social media numbers are just the tiny tip of the iceberg, though. Nadal is more popular among the Twitter crowd, sure, but said crowd represents less than 5% of the whole human race. Nadal is traditionnally more popular among the young, Federer among their parents and the more, ahem, wise people (ie the old geezers^^). If you add to that the fact that the current average age of tennis fans is supposed to be 62, well, that's all you need to know, really (also, there was this crazy poll a few years back in which Fed was voted the most respected person in the world after only Nelson Mandela (which was crazy, if you ask me, but shows how immensely popular he is). Nadal has gained a huge popularity in his shadow, though, by being his foil from the start (and, like Hitman, I think that Fed too gained in popularity from that rivalry later on... although he probably didn't need it, to be honest).

As a European, I would say:
Federer
Borg
Nadal
Agassi

Borg was a real rockstar in his time, it was quite impressive (and it probably led, at least in part, to him stopping his career early). Fed's popularity has grown far outside tennis over the years, though, so I would say he has outgrown Borg. Pretty sure that Nadal isn't there yet, but I may be wrong--it may be because of the fact that Federer and Nadal are contemporaries, and Nadal is the clear #2 in that rivalry, popularity-wise (despite what the less than 5% Twitter crowd may have to say about this). Outside this trio, definitely Agassi, as Sampras never really was that big in Europe. Respected, yes. But popular? Not really. Tennis took a serious dive in the 90's in Europe, and that was mainly due to Pete's personnality. It picked up again in the 00's--with Fed. #5 would be tougher to determine, between Sampras, McEnroe, Connors... and Lendl (Ivan would probably be last in that group, though). Probably Mac, because of his antics. I wouldn't bet my house on it, though.
 

Phoenix1983

G.O.A.T.
My list of male players:

1. Borg
2. Federer
3. Agassi
4. Laver
5. Nadal

Guys like Mac and Connors are very difficult to rank, because they were hated by many as well as loved - albeit I think, in both cases, they've grown into 'beloved grumpy uncle' type figures, rather than being known as complete jackasses. So they're both probably popular these days, as is Becker. Sampras is more revered among tennis connoisseurs, than being someone truly loved. Lendl and Novak Djokovic, genuinely unpopular.
 
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