Why You Aren’t Watching Tennis and Why You Should with a Fan Club

Is tennis among the sports you watch?
Is tennis among the sports you watch?

Photo by Gonzolo Facello / CC0 1.0

Watching tennis should be a must for any sports fan who relishes intense competition, extreme athleticism, and blazing mental agility. Still, tennis viewership numbers in the US lag far behind other popular sports. FanWide is trying to help the sport increase its populary through organizing watch parties nationwide.  Check to see if there is a tennis watch party near you!

Let’s examine a few common objections sports fans have about following tennis. We’ll pick each one apart, offering reasons why tennis is a great sport to watch and play while debunking a few myths along the way.

Buckle up!

Tennis just isn’t popular here in the US. There doesn’t seem to be any big American events.

These days, tennis is a truly universal sport enjoyed everywhere by fans of all backgrounds and beliefs—including the good ol’ US of A. Tennis isn’t popular in the US? Tell that to the country’s 18 million active tennis players. Or the top-ranked American men on the Association of Tennis Professional (ATP) and women on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tours.

Tennis in the US as a tournament sport dates back to 1876, making it about as old as organized football. In other words, the sport has a rich and lengthy history in this country.

Each year in late August and early September, New York City plays host to the US Open, one of four championship Grand Slam events on the global pro circuit. The top male contenders in the field at this year’s US Open are among the most coordinated and skilled athletes in the world.

Other major tournaments taking place in the US include the Miami Open, Cincinnati Masters, and Indian Wells Open.

My favorites are the sports I played when I was younger. The classics—baseball, football, and basketball. I was never exposed to tennis. Why should I enjoy it now that I’m older?

We all develop a love of certain sports at a young age. In the US, well-organized youth programs make it easier to play some sports. But sports participation, and loving a game as a spectator, is quite accessible as we grow older. In fact, some sports we may not have appreciated earlier in life resonate with us now.

Take golf, for example. The average age of golfers in the US is 54. The number of senior players far exceeds younger players.

Tennis is a sport that knows no age limit for participants or spectators. Players range in age from three to 103. Opportunities to play tennis are available for all ages and skill levels.

Sure, the tennis pros on the ATP and WTA tours are in the prime of their physical abilities. They perform the sport perfectly and with the utmost skill. If you have an interest in playing tennis, you should watch pro events to glean tips and tricks to improve your game.

For skilled older players, there are many organized competitions in the US and around the world. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) hosts senior tournaments and global rankings for age brackets from Over 35 to Over 85.

I watch team sports to see my favorite player in action. Tennis isn’t a team sport.

We won’t go into the weeds with an explanation of all the ways tennis is a team sport. However, tennis is a very individual battle in the context of singles matches. Of course, this makes it awesome for watching your favorite athlete constantly engaged with the game. With men’s Grand Slam matches averaging three and a half hours, there’s a ton of time when the players are actively playing.

Let’s contrast this situation with other sports. A pro baseball game can also stretch for three and a half hours—but your favorite player only bats four or five times while making a handful of (usually routine) plays in the field. Even in sports with more movement like basketball and soccer, players are largely idle until receiving the ball or defending against a ball possessor. Tennis is mostly non-stop through the match. The in-set breaks are short, and time between sets is mere minutes.

Watching stars like Serena Williams increases fan interest!
Watching stars like Serena Williams increases fan interest!

Photo by Yann Caradec / CC BY-SA 2.0

Tennis players just hit a ball back and forth? It’s like a real-life version of Pong. I like sports with a mental component.

Don’t be fooled by the apparent simplicity, tennis is very much a thinking person’s game. Players calculate and plot every strike of the ball in an attempt to move their opponent to a disadvantageous position. These decisions must be made within fractions of a second. Imagine running as fast you can while considering ball spin, speed, and angle—and then hitting the ball exactly where you want it. Now imagine doing it intuitively, i.e., not actually thinking at all, which is how skilled players approach the game.

There are seven return shot types in tennis, each with a unique protocol of stance, hand placement, contact, and follow-through. Players also decide which shot to deploy before hitting the ball.

Another twist is the deceptively large appearance of tennis courts. It looks like there’s plenty of space to hit the ball inbounds. However, the slightest misjudgment of a shot can land the ball in a dangerous spot, whether out of bounds or right in the opponent’s strike zone.

The speed of play makes tennis a difficult game psychologically. There’s constant pressure to assess the oncoming shot correctly. And one or two mistakes can throw a player’s game into a tailspin. Success in tennis requires intense levels of focus and keeping emotions in check. Even the pros slip up, which is why you see the occasional expletive-laden tirade and smashed racquet.

Final Thoughts

Tennis is a game of unmatched physical and mental skill enjoyed around the planet. Still, the sport fails to garner the audience it deserves in the US. But spreading the word about the virtues of tennis helps generate interest from young and old alike. After all, tennis is a sport for all people, regardless of geography, background, or life stage.

We hope you have a new appreciation of this most rewarding sport to watch and play. Maybe we’ll see you at a US Open watch party soon!