Tennis Continues to Fault in the U.S.

By Deirdre Macchia

Tennis popularity may be rising everywhere but America. While tennis participation and interest continues to be increasing worldwide, the sport struggles to gain the popularity and viewership that the NFL and numerous college sports receive in the U.S. Despite reports of the growth of youth involvement of tennis by American youth, it is clear that the sport remains on the decay and young kids seek participation in more popular American sports, as tennis equipment and training are more expensive than that of soccer or basketball. As a result, the sport suffers on the college level and foreign athletes make up the numbers of most NCAA tennis programs. Furthermore, the United States has fewer athletes in tournaments both at home and abroad leading to less contribution to grand slams and high rankings overall.

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Merlisa Corbett, of Bleacher Report, concluded in her November 2013 article that the ranking of U.S. men in the ATP and lack of Davis Cup wins is representative of the free fall of tennis in the United States. Corbett also attributes the lack of superstar men’s players and many other causes for the sport’s steep decline. John Isner is currently the highest ranked men’s player at number twenty, which reflects a lack of interest right off the bat. Coinciding with the lack of men’s icons, tournaments and tours are moving away from the United States and into places such as Asia and South America. The U.S. Open men’s final suffered its lowest ratings in its history at a mere 2.2 million views reported by Sporting News in September 2014.

Serena Williams and other female athletes of the sport appear to be the beacon of hope for tennis within the United States. At 33 years-old, the tennis star continues to accumulate major championships and leave behind a powerful legacy that is crucial for American interest and the growth of women in sport. Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Venus Williams, and a great number of American women consume rankings in the WTA, but it still may not be enough to reverse the direction tennis continues to head in.

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It is obvious that Americans enjoy tuning into international sporting events in which the United States has some kind of success or underdog story. The United States men’s team run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the story of the Williams sisters making their way to the international stage from Compton, California with their father as their coach gains widespread American support. Because of the scarcity of this in American tennis besides small exceptions, tennis is losing attention fast. Although American athletes collected a number of medals at the past summer Olympics in London, it did not assist in the progression of tennis viewership and draw in the United States. Many major tournaments such as the Australian Open also have off-peaking viewing hours, making it difficult to gain viewership in the U.S. There may not be a clear and concise solution, but it is evident that the United States needs to work on encouraging youth participation of the sport in order to pursue American athletes to the sport in college. Additionally, the United States is in need of a male athlete to complement the current success of Serena Williams, like a Pete Sampras or Jimmy Connors. The loss of American notice to tennis may not appear as fatal to the sport, but the threat of the loss of the American market may be enough motivation to work on efforts to cultivate the sport.

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