Novak Djokovic accused of being a ‘turn-off’ as poor Australian Open viewing figures revealed

Kevin Palmer
Aryna Sabalenka

Novak Djokovic has been accused of being a turn-off for TV viewers after disappointing figures for Channel 9’s coverage of the Australian Open were revealed. 

Tennis fans lapped up the first Grand Slam of 2023, with thrilling matches and upsets aplenty creating plenty of drama.

Yet the lack of star names appear to have taken a hit for domestic viewers in Australia, after Channel 9 invested $500 million to extend their Australian Open deal until 2030.

The retirements of Ashleigh Barty and Roger Federer, the withdrawal due to injury of Nick Kyrgios and the early exit of an injured Rafael Nadal are being balmed for viewing figures that collapsed compared to 2022 numbers.

During women’s singles final which was won by Aryna Sabalenka and the men’s doubles final, the ratings peaked at 1.437 million viewers and which compares to 4.261 million viewers.

Context needs to be applied here as the same day last year saw Barty’s emotional title triumph on home soil and a remarkable doubles win for Kyrgios and his Aussie partner Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Overall viewing figures are dramatically down on a year ago, with Djokovic’s tenth title win not attracting the audiences to replace those who switched off.

We know Djokovic really isn‘t a ratings drawcard in my mind so the fact of him being part of it this year, I think doesn’t make any difference,” TV expert Colin Vickery said to the Herald Sun.

“The world of tennis is lacking TV ratings drawcards at the moment, it is in a transition phase. The drawcards who are reliable like Ash Barty, Federer, they have gone and there are very few coming through right at this moment.”

The viewing figures in Australia are contrasted by encouraging numbers in Europe, with discovery+ and Eurosport reporting huge growth in numbers on their platforms, especially in European nations like Poland and the Netherlands, as they cheered on some of their local heroes.

The contrasting viewing numbers highlight a challenging time ahead for tennis.

Kyrgios has spoken about a crisis looming in tennis as it lacks star names, with these comments backed up by Channel 9’s disappointing viewing numbers.

“I just think that tennis has done a really poor job with accepting personalities in the past.

“I think they have kind of really only marketed three players for the last decade and now it’s kind of caught up with them, so hence they have tried to push some of the Next Gen guys … tennis has really struggled to embrace different personalities, like when people go about it differently.

“Like something about Thanasi when I watch him play singles it glues me to the TV, whether he’s losing or whether he’s winning, it’s just the way he goes about it.

“I think tennis needs to embrace that more.”

Tennis authorities are hoping the Netflix series Break Point will fuel a boom in the sport’s popularity with a new, youthful audience.

Yet there has been a lukewarm reaction to the first five episodes of a series that was launched shortly before the Australian Open.