The good news is tennis is an aspirational sport. Every year, more people express their interest in tennis, and while the industry doesn’t have a problem getting people to try tennis, the challenge is in retaining and continuing to engage them in the sport. Tennis needs to increase the number of players, consumers and fans—all part of the participant base needed for a healthy industry.
The ongoing trade wars have stressed manufacturers, retailers continue their struggle and traditional tennis is challenged by social change that reflects a trend toward casual play and demand for more diverse experiences. It is vital for the industry to embrace change along with short-court formats such as pickleball, padel and paddle/POP tennis that can provide new energy, revenue and most of all add to the all-important participant base.
Additionally, the industry has many positive key messages to promote including tennis (racquet sports) is the No. 1 overall sport for health and wellness, Youth Play is up, Cardio Tennis continues as a leader of all sports and fitness activities, and the USTA is one of the strongest and most powerful federations in sport with the U.S. Open providing a dazzling annual showcase for tennis and physical fitness.
It is increasingly important for providers to deliver a connected experience for players through social group fitness and sticky technology platforms to increase retention. Equally important is the need for the industry to adopt new business practices through increased education and skills-based training. As 2020 rings in, I am excited about the innovation evolving to improve business and consumer interaction as well as the very real virtual sports world. I believe the next decade will usher in a renewed focus to improve player and customer experiences that will deliver growth for tennis as the core among racquet and paddle sports.