Sunday marked the beginning of the Tennis summer with the launch of the 2019 French Open at Roland Garros. To mark the occasion, our research looks at what the nation really think of the game of love.
Generally, we’re a nation of tennis lovers, and some two-thirds (65%) of those surveyed expressed some interest in watching the game. 15% of Britons say they often watch tennis; 27% sometimes do and 22% do but rarely. 35% never tune into tennis matches, of whom 60% are women, and half (50%) are aged 55 and over. Residents of London (82%) and the North East (75%) have the highest engagement with tennis, whilst Andy Murray’s legacy has encouraged respondents in Edinburgh (68%) Glasgow (69%) and Aberdeen (62%) to watch more of the game.
But what type of tennis is it that people want to watch? The men’s game, for its physicality or the women’s for its shape and pace? Despite a third (33%) of those surveyed expressing an equal appreciation for the men’s and women’s game, a quarter (25%) of respondents prefer men’s tennis, compared to just 8% who prefer the women’s game. Younger people are significantly more likely to express an interest in women’s tennis, with 35% valuing both tournaments equally, and 14% preferring the women’s sport. Respondents who ‘sometimes’ or ‘rarely’ tune into televised tennis matches are more likely to value both men’s and women’s tennis equally (54%), whilst the most avid fans are more likely to prefer watching men’s matches (45%).
Wimbledon is overwhelmingly Britain’s favourite tennis tournament, and over half (53%) of those surveyed selected this as their highlight of the tennis calendar. Just 3% of those surveyed prefer the French Open, the second most popular tennis tournament among Britons, whose popularity was greatest amongst 25-34 year-olds (8%) and the most regular tennis viewers, of whom just 9% claim to prefer Paris’ clays over Wimbledon’s grass.
Respondents were split when asked who they expect to win the French Open, with world number 1 Novak Djokovic (17%) and reigning French Open champion Rafa Nadal (17%) tied in Britons’ expectations. Our keenest tennis viewers are most likely to favour Djokovic for the men’s title at the French Open, with a third (33%) of those who often tune into tennis matches arguing that the Serb will win at Roland Garros. Yet tennis fans are reluctant to rule out Nadal, fresh from his win at the Italian Open, with 30% backing the Spaniard to win on Paris’ clay courts, and 29% expecting the injured Federer to win at his first French Open since 2015.
Meanwhile in the women’s tournament, Britons generally expect Serena Williams to reign supreme; 19% of those surveyed anticipate Williams will win, as do 32% of respondents who often tune into tennis tournaments. Many of our keenest tennis viewers also have high expectations of Simona Halep (29%) and are reluctant to rule out challengers like Petra Kvitova (9%). Yet the unpredictability of tennis tournaments, particularly Roland Garros’ unforgiving clays, shouldn’t be underestimated. Angelique Kerber’s first round defeat came despite 10% of Britain’s most avid tennis fans backing her to take the title. Whatever the results, this summer of tennis promises high drama, and some unmissable sporting moments.