In 1920, one of the fastest-growing U.S. sports was tennis. From 2010 to 2018, though, the sport’s U.S. participation rate declined -5%.
First, 1920. This contemporary article, which uses the spelling “racquet” when describing the equipment, says tennis is “the game that… is gaining popularity more rapidly than ever.”
The 1920 article’s estimate of “more than three million tennis players in this country” meant roughly 2.8% of the population at the time. The most recent annual report from the Tennis Industry Association estimates 17.8 million Americans played tennis in 2018, or about 5.4% of the population.
So the percentage of the population playing tennis has roughly doubled in the past century. That’s the good news for the sport. The bad news it that the trend lines have reversed since 2010, with tennis participation declining by -5% from 2010 to 2018, following a +44% increase from 2000 to 2010.
It probably doesn’t help that no American male has won any of the sport’s four major annual “Grand Slam” titles — the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open, or Wimbledon — since Andy Roddick in 2003.
Tennis, A World Sport Epidemic: In This Country All Ages and Both Sexes Are Wielding the Racquet With Increasing Joy and Skill
Published: Sunday, June 6, 1920