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Make U.S. Top Tennis Playing Nation By 2035

Make U.S. Top Tennis Playing Nation By 2035

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, April 3, 2024

America will be the world’s top tennis nation by 2035—if the USTA achieves an ambitious aim.

The USTA today announced a bold mission: to increase the country’s tennis-playing population to 35 million total players, or 10% of the U.S. population by 2035. 

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That may sound like a stretch given the fact pickleball player growth is surpassing tennis player growth in many areas of the nation.

Then there’s the fact Americans are also leading more sedentary lives since the pandemic.

One in eight people in the world are living with obesity, according to The World Health Organization, which ranks the United States 10th in the world for obesity among men, with a male adult obesity rate of 41.6% in 2022.

The U.S. adult obesity rate “increased from 21.2% in 1990 to 43.8% in 2022 for women… placing the country 36th in the world for highest obesity rates among women,” according to a WHO study cited by U.S. News and World Report.

Given those statistics and the higher cost of playing tennis compared to other sports like pickleball, basketball and soccer, how does the USTA plan to achieve its ambitious aim over the next decade?

The U.S. Tennis Association strategy includes a dedicated focus on player retention, coaches and courts.

“When players have exceptional experiences, we all succeed. When the delivery system flourishes, tennis grows. At the USTA, our role is to be a connector of excellence across the entire tennis ecosystem,” said Lew Sherr, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “By ensuring players new and old have access to the programs, coaching and facilities they need to progress on their tennis-playing path, we can continue to grow the game and deepen its positive impact — creating new opportunities for human connection and improving the physical, mental and emotional health and safety of our communities, both on and off the court.”

Over the past four years, the USTA says tennis participation in the U.S. has “experienced remarkable growth of 33%, fueled by new players taking up the sport.”

This growth stretches across a variety of communities, with participation among Hispanic/Latino players and Black/African-American players “growing by 105% and 63%, respectively, over the past five years — making tennis look more like America than ever before,” the USTA asserts.

However, player retention is an issue in America.

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