Novak Djokovic calls for changes in tennis to bring down the "alarming" average age of fans

Novak Djokovic in action against Diego Schwartzman
Novak Djokovic in action against Diego Schwartzman

Novak Djokovic is a known advocate of the best-of-three format in tennis, and he recently threw his weight behind introducing it at the Grand Slams too. The Serb’s comments came in the wake of Rafael Nadal voicing his opposition to a reduction in sets earlier on Sunday.

The World No. 1 strongly believes that tennis must venture into uncharted territory - like having best-of-three sets at the Majors - to be able to attract a younger audience to the sport.

Speaking to the press after his win over Diego Schwartzman at the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals, Novak Djokovic cited a Nielsen-based study from 2016 to state that the average age of a tennis fan is 61 years.

“Unfortunately we have a statistic that is a bit alarming, a study that showed that the average age of a tennis fan is 61 years," Djokovic said.

The eight-time Australian Open champion made it clear that he respected the traditions prevalent in tennis, but expressed his desire to see new avenues being explored to shorten the duration of matches.

"I think we have to change something. It is clear that we are one of those sports that has always remained attached to tradition, something I respect, but at the same time we have not had the possibility to explore new options, some changes, whether it be the score, fewer sets or whatever. We have never entered that terrain," the Serb continued.
"Every time it is mentioned, I do not see too much support, I do not see a predisposition to solve that point and think, strategically, about what we can do to attract a younger audience to our sport. I also think that today, the attention span of younger fans is less. For us to be able to improve the product that is tennis, at a commercial and marketing level we must adapt to the demands of the youngest,” he added.

Is Novak Djokovic accurate with his statistic about the average age of a tennis fan?

Novak Djokovic walks into the O2 Arena
Novak Djokovic walks into the O2 Arena

The answer to this is both yes and no. While Novak Djokovic is right about the figure of 61 years, the statistic in itself appears to be considerably skewed.

As mentioned before, this figure comes from a 2016 study conducted by Magna Global based on Nielsen and US Census data. This analysis accounted for fans within the USA who watched sports only on broadcast or cable television.

Naturally, younger audiences - who are more used to digital viewing - are not been represented completely in this study.

Moreover, American fans are known to have a strong affinity for their own compatriots in sports. With a significant dip in the quality of American male tennis players lately, it is not surprising that some may have found a new sport to follow.

Novak Djokovic also missed the point of women’s tennis, where the American viewer's average age has gone down by eight years over the last decade.

Currently, at a median of 55 years, WTA tennis is the only sport in the USA that has seen a decline in consumers' average age, making it a pretty remarkable achievement for the sport.

All things considered, while Novak Djokovic’s argument for including younger fans may be a constructive one, the analysis he quoted does not cover all bases.

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