Tennis participation has grown 10% globally in the last five years but it must embrace new inclusive experiences, powered by technology and analytics to engage the next generation of fans, a research survey report said.
Tennis has successfully expanded to and has reached new players and audiences across the globe, said “Tennis Radar: The Next Big Era,” a report by the Infosys Knowledge Institute (IKI), the research and thought leadership arm of Bengaluru-headquartered IT major Infosys Ltd.
The research, the company said in a statement on Tuesday, surveyed 3,000 tennis fans globally and interviewed prominent organisers, coaches, professional players, industry influencers and media.
Infosys is the digital innovation partner of ATP Tour, Australian Open and Roland Garros.
However, despite this new found reach, experts of the game suggest that there’s a large untapped pool who may never watch or play tennis because they think it’s “exclusive” and “difficult to play,” it said.
The report found that tennis was becoming more accessible through experimentation at all levels, from grassroots to grand slams and through fantasy leagues, Esports and technology like virtual reality that bring new fans to tennis.
Nearly a quarter of the players globally come from China (23 per cent), yet the country has only 10 per cent of the worlds tennis courts and only a few clubs, stifling potential growth in a sports market tipped to reach USD 470 billion by 2025.
While China averages 393 players per court, at the other end of the scale France averages just 87, Australia 104 and Germany 122.
The report also revealed that tennis fans were aging, and the average age of tennis fans in the West, at leastis higher than the average age of the population.
At the elite level, the research found equal access to detailed player and match data analytics.
But it’s not just players and coaches who are hungry for data.
The report found fans also seek more detailed match and player insights with the rise of second screen viewing.
The report found that like all consumer products, tennis is no longer a discrete activity, it’s an experience consisting of dispersed, shareable micro-moments both on and off the court.
According to a recent research by Tennis Australia, the fun aspect of the Australian Open atmosphere was the second-most important factor for attendance for people under 50.
“At the Australian Open we are crystal clear what has led to us trebling our business in 5 years. Taking a Grand Slam tennis tournament and adding to it has expanded our audience into new segments and geographies.
But you have to commit. We take our ‘families’ business, our music festival and our food vertical as seriously as we do our tennis. If you don’t, it doesn’t succeed,” Chief Revenue and Experiential Officer, Richard Heaselgrave was quoted as saying.
While tennis in recent years has seen multiple formats and innovations trailed at different levels of the sport, fans across all age groups, including GenZ (84 per cent) and millennials (85 per cent), said match length is not a primary barrier to engagement with the sport.
The report identified opportunities to introduce new fans to the sport globally with analytics-based and virtual and augmented reality technologies.
Analytics-based experiences improve enjoyment for 83 per cent of fans surveyed according to the Tennis Radar research.
For example, fans at the Australian Open can play against the greatest tennis players in the world using VR and AR technology in a simulated Rod Laver arena, the Australian Opens centre court.
Social technologies are also helping tennis grow, including at the club level, with apps like Tennis Connect, where users can schedule courts and invite others to play.
Chief Operating Officer, Infosys, U B Pravin Rao said: “This research reinforces that tennis can become even more successful if it can increase access to playing, watching, and understanding the game, and to do that, technology especially social technology and analytics-based experiences will play a vital role.”