Why Doesn't Anyone Watch Tennis Anymore?

Discussion in 'General Pro Player Discussion' started by adventure, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. adventure

    adventure Banned

    Aug 1, 2011
    There really aren't any American superstars in tennis anymore, outside of the controversial Serena Williams. The US Open, the most popular of the four slams for US fans, is only drawing a rating of 1 or 2 for both men's and women's finals.

    In comparison the NBA Finals draws ratings of 15-18. The superbowl's rating is in the mid 40's.

    Overall, the popularity of tennis has declined sharply in the US. Is there going to be a turnaround in tennis popularity in the US?


    Tennis Television Ratings Tumble
    By John Koblin 9/04/10 2:29pm

    Someone order up a Roger-Rafa and Sharapova-Venus final. CBS needs it!

    I went through CBS Media Guide last night, and there are three pages dedicated to the ratings of men’s and women’s Grand Slam finals over the last few decades and–yowza–they have taken a steep decline, particularly in the last year or two.

    Let’s start with the U.S. Open. For the last two years, thanks to rain, the men’s finals have been played on late Monday afternoon (the Judge Judy slot) and both of them have had the worst ratings of any Open men’s final since the records start in 1978. Last year’s women’s final–which was thrown on ESPN2 on a Sunday night instead of its usual spot on CBS on Saturday night due to the rain–was also the worst one ever recorded.

    It’s not just the Open, either. At Wimbledon, Rafa Nadal-Tomas Berdych’s final this year scored a 1.6 rating, the lowest rated men’s final on NBC since 1988 (in the CBS media guide, the Wimbledon ratings only go back that far). The women’s final of Serena v. Vera Zvonareva scored a 1.6 as well, which is the women’s lowest Wimbledon final in the last 23 years.

    What finals performed great, and what did poorly? Let’s go through the stats! (The number next to each match is Nielsen’s “rating,” which is the percentage of televisions around the country that tuned in for tennis).


    1. 1980, John McEnroe d. Bjorn Borg, 11.0

    2. 1982, Jimmy Connors d. Ivan Lendl, 9.9

    3. 1983, Jimmy Connors d. Ivan Lendl, 9.5

    OK, enough with the early 80s! We get it, it was a glory age. What about in the last, say, 15 years? OK, coming right up! Since 1995…


    1. 1999, Andre Agassi d. Todd Martin, 6.3

    2. 2002, Pete Sampras d. Andre Agassi, 6.2

    3. 1996, Pete Sampras d. Michael Chang, 6.1

    What conclusions do we draw from this? Obviously we prefer Americans! In fact, in the era of Federer’s Dominance, the best rated men’s matches have featured Roger Federer v. Andre Agassi (4.8 in 2005) and Federer v. Roddick (4.1 in 2006).

    What are the three lowest ever?


    1. 2008, Roger Federer d. Andy Murray, 1.7

    2. 2009, Juan Martin del Potro d. Roger Federer, 2.3

    3. 2004, Roger Federer d. Lleyton Hewitt, 2.5

    As we explained before, two of those are easily explained by the Monday final.

    Let’s move over to the ladies. Also, it’s worth nothing that the women moved from Saturday afternoon finals to Saturday night finals in 2001. Let’s look at the best rated:


    1. 1981, Tracy Austin d. Martina Navratilova, 7.7

    2. 1985, Hana Mandlíková d. Martina Navratilova, 7.3

    3. 1984, Martina Navratilova d. Chris Evert, 7.1

    Enough with the 80s! Let’s take a look at it since 1995.


    1. 2001, Venus Williams d. Serena Williams, 6.8

    2. 1999, Serena Williams d. Martina Hingis, 6.3

    3. 1995, Steffi Graf d. Monica Seles, 5.2

    And the worst?


    1. 2009, Kim Clijsters d. Caroline Wozniacki, 1.1

    2. 2007, Justine Henin d. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 2.1

    3. 2004, Svetlana Kuznetsova d. Elena Dementieva, 2.3

    Lesson: CBS wants nothing to do with Kuznetsova!

  2. Lsmkenpo

    Lsmkenpo Hall of Fame

    Aug 21, 2006
    For the casual viewer used to other fast paced sports tennis has become boring, very slow tempo and defensive play has hurt the sport.

    Within 2 years the sport will lose most of its popular players with really no one on the horizon to replace them. That coupled with the slowing of the game will be the downfall of the sport for the average fan.
  3. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Jun 2, 2006
    The Great NW
    Yet another thread lamenting the imminent death of tennis.

    First a couple of definitions: "TV ratings" means: "American TV ratings". Face it, we live in a global economy, it ain't all about America.

    Most tennis players I know aren't losing sleep over CBS Corp's and ESPN's advertising money streams.

    Comparing current ratings to the Golden Age of American tennis is by definition going to show a drop, since tennis was unrealistically popular among non-tennis players at that time. It is highly unlikely that those days will ever return so stop comparing to them, they were an anomaly.

    To be perfectly honest, it was not all that great for avid tennis players at that time, when every public court was choked until 10 pm with random hackers going out for a hit.
  4. West Coast Ace

    West Coast Ace G.O.A.T.

    Feb 11, 2005
    So Cal
    OP, has nothing to do with American stars. Plenty of Americans like Roger and Rafa. Americans are not nearly as nationalistic as other countries - just look at these boards. Plenty of us rip Roddick for his bad behavior - I don't see any Spaniards saying "Rafa really needs to stop taking bogus MTOs."

    And it's not really about tennis' failure - it's about the success of the other sports. They just do a better job marketing their sport and stars. Take NASCAR - they drive in a circle! most races. But it's big (although suffering somewhat due to the economy). They did a great job getting their drivers to do press, meet and greets with the fans. NBA. Ditto - star driven league. Golf is huge because of the Tiger effect and the fact that golf is more of a social sport at the rec level. Tennis players do a few autograph signings and meet and greets with the corporate sponsors - but not enough. World Team Tennis tries - but they don't get that many big names - and it lasts for about 3 weeks.
  5. morten

    morten Hall of Fame

    Feb 19, 2004
    i agree... i loved watching in the 90s with the contrasting styles, surfaces and serve and volley. Now i just play...
  6. Kaz00

    Kaz00 Semi-Pro

    Dec 15, 2009
    Runnin round backhands
    I don't think the Federer Murray final was on TV I had to watch it on my computer.
  7. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Oct 1, 2005
    NASCAR and F1 utilize men's fondness for fast cars. Can't really duplicate that with tennis.

    Golf has become associated with leadership and executive management, and has a prestige value. Can't imagine two CEOs playing a nasty, sweaty game of tennis before signing a deal.
  8. r2473

    r2473 G.O.A.T.

    Aug 14, 2006
    Same as the late 90's early 2000's on the golf course during the height of the Tiger boom.

    The less popular tennis is the better for lots of reasons.
  9. achokshi99

    achokshi99 Rookie

    Sep 12, 2009
    I think tennis is getting great coverage overall now, ESPN2 covers all the big tournies and top ATP tournies so the tv coverage is there. Chris Fowler loves tennis and despite what some say about his comments, is a big guy at ESPN so him being into tennis and pushing for it, is pretty cool.

    I think the bigger problem with tennis is that they air awful matches early on. I think even the casual fan would want to see two legit top 20-40 players in a match versus a top 5 playing some wildcard and destroying them.

    Plus they always go away from GOOD matches to the feature crap. Like last night, Troicki and I believe Falla in a 5 setter, and its like 4-5 in the fifth, whats the harm in staying on hat match versus going to the lame opening ceremony of the US Open...awful.
  10. Say Chi Sin Lo

    Say Chi Sin Lo G.O.A.T.

    Aug 30, 2005
    It's the marketing. All of the ads are not appealing, I'm getting tired of seeing the pros slowly stroll to the chair in those stupid commercials.
  11. onehandbh

    onehandbh Legend

    Dec 19, 2005
    IMO, TV coverage of tennis just hasn't evolved enough compared to many
    other sports. Plus the slowing of all the surfaces has made most of the
    players play a mostly baseline game in order to win.

    Some things that might help tennis:

    1) camera's on a wire like the NFL has.

    2) more microphones in the locker room and to catch conversations
    b/w the players and coaches.

    2a) more microphones on the court to catch the players

    3) Lower, on court camera angles to better capture the explosiveness and
    speed of the game.

    4) Better grassroots program to make the game more accessible to kids.
    Right now kids would rather snowboard, skateboard, play basketball,
    football, baseball, soccer, swim, golf, surf, play videogames, etc.
    Plus tennis just isn't viewed as a "cool" sport compared to the other sports.

    5) The atmosphere of a tennis match is more like a game of chess than
    a sporting event.
  12. Subventricular Zone

    Subventricular Zone Rookie

    Apr 27, 2011
    In the US, it's simple: there are no dominating + interesting American stars and/or rivalries. Even Fed and Nadal are still relatively not as popular as say other American sports stars.

    Golf is not as popular as other sports here but ratings have taken a hit since Woods' infamous scandal.

    Also, tennis is not even on national TV except during finals weekend, and even then, it's treated as a second-rate cousin compared to other sports. Who else watches it except die-core fans? It is just too inaccessible.
  13. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

    Aug 24, 2007
    I'm very surprised to see that Sampras was 5 times more popular than Federer.
  14. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

    Nov 12, 2009
    Cwmbran, Wales
    Tennis seems bigger than ever in Europe at the moment.
  15. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

    Nov 12, 2009
    Cwmbran, Wales
    Really? Sampras is American and Federer isn't. If Federer and Nadal had been American, this era would be called the greatest without question by the US media, and US ratings would be up a lot. Instead, it's like a shrug of the shoulders by acknowledging their greatness, while lamenting the lack of American stars from the "old days".
  16. Caracalla

    Caracalla Rookie

    Sep 28, 2009
    Sampras post-ratings era is low due to the internet available content..

    if there was no internet.. or like in 70' early 80s video recorders.. we would now have huge interest..

    instead, you have some idiot with more views on youtube than any top Athlete or even combined..

    it's just normal today for this generation I mean.. it will go down even more until we have somebody of Sampras/Federer, Jordan/Kobe, Senna/Schumacher, Pele/Maradona/ etc.. stature and charisma..
  17. TopFH

    TopFH Hall of Fame

    Aug 15, 2010
    I think a more apt name would be: Why doesn't anyone in the USA watch tennis anymore?
  18. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

    Aug 24, 2007
    Roddick's finals didn't even register on that list.
  19. MarinaHighTennis

    MarinaHighTennis Professional

    Mar 23, 2011
    Huntington Beach, CA
    Well I've found it a lot more boring than previous years. Too much power not enough genius or strategy. I used to like watching Andy Murray before but not anymore. I found old highlights more interesting to watch than today's. People moved faster and longer rallies
  20. Limibeans

    Limibeans Rookie

    May 5, 2008
    Another thing to keep in mind that TV isnt the only media device anymore.

    I watch a lot of tennis online.

    If I had to just guess, id say America doesnt watch tennis anymore because we're fat. Most people who dont play tennis arnt going to watch tennis. How many people who watch basketball and football have actually played a sport in their life? Not many. lol

    Tennis on TV attracts tennis players.
    Other sports attract non players, food, and beer.
  21. GS

    GS Professional

    Feb 20, 2004
    So this is why I rarely have to wait to play on a public court nowadays? Hallelujah!
  22. Gizo

    Gizo Hall of Fame

    May 15, 2007
    Even if the US were still the dominant force in men's tennis, I doubt the sport will ever be anywhere near as popular as it was in the late 70s-early 80s with the McEnroe, Connors, Borg triumverate. Borg was a far bigger celebrity in the US than Federer, Nadal or even Sampras.

    In the 90s when the US had the fab four of Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang racking up the big titles, the New York Times and Sports Illustrated ran articles and covers asking if tennis was dying, especially during the height of the Sampras dominance in 1994. Casual American fans only cared about Agassi and not the other 3 players. If Agassi had dedicated himself more to the sport in the early 90s and won more Wimbledon/US Open titles during his career, its ratings and popularity would have been better.

    The all German Stich-Becker 1991 Wimbeldon final got much higher TV ratings in the US than the all American Sampras-Courier final in 1993.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2011
  23. ttbrowne

    ttbrowne Hall of Fame

    May 29, 2008
    IF tennis wants the audience/ratings that the other sports have, It will have to change.

    Attending a tennis match is NOT a family event. It's nothing but a tennis match, unless you go to the USO.
    I just went to a Cards game and realized that my Dad, who passed on in 1972 and loved baseball, would see baseball in 2011 as a big circus. That's one thing tennis has to do to compete. Become a family event. Do some fun stuff on the changeovers. Get a fan out of the audience and play a crazy game. That's what baseball, basketball, & football does. Golf...is not a sport so I won't go there. It's walking & then hitting a ball that is stilling still on the ground.
    Tennis will have to get fun to attend to get increased ratings. If you like to attend then you are more prone to watch. And still, tennis is so far behind it may never catch up.
  24. Raindogs

    Raindogs Hall of Fame

    Mar 9, 2010
    If idiotic how-many-marshmallows-can-you-stuff-in-your-mouth contests during dead ball time like they've done in baseball between innings is what it takes to attract the idiotic texting gnat attention-span generation to tennis, then I sincerely hope that the sport stays right where it is in its limited appeal.
    If the sport itself is interesting and engaging it should sell itself, you shouldn't need to try and appeal to the 16 year old acne-riddled ADHD moron with a lot of pop and fizzle.
    Mike Judge's Idiocracy is here.

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