Frances Tiafoe calls on rigid tennis to get with the times in order ‘to bring younger fans to the game’

Shahida Jacobs
Frances Tiafoe in action

Frances Tiafoe believes it is time for tennis to scale up and modernise, saying there are some archaic rules that need to be changed if the sport is going to attract younger fans.

Research conducted for Sports Business Journal by Magna Global in 2016 found that the average age of tennis fans in the United States are quite high compared to other sports.

The study found that the average of ATP fans was 61 – up five years from the previous study done in 2006 and up 10 years from 2000 – while WTA fans were on average 55 years old – an eight-year decrease compared to 2016.

Meanwhile, the average age for American football (NFL) fans was 50, basketball (NBA) fans was 42 and football (MLS) was 40.

Following that study, many have called on the powers to be to move forward with Novak Djokovic saying back in 2020: “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.”

Not much has changed the past few years and Tiafoe feels the sport needs to be less rigid and one thing he would introduce is to allow fans to come and go and speak during matches, like they do at basketball matches.

Currently play will get halted if too many people are moving around or noise disturbs the players.

“I think fans should be able to come and go and move around and speak during matches,” the American told Forbes magazine. “Imagine going to a basketball game and not saying anything.”

Tiafoe, though, concedes that it is important to retain some traditions, especially at Wimbledon, but added “outside that, let’s start to change things to bring younger fans to the game.”

His fellow American Jessica Pegula is also keen on Tiafoe’s idea of allowing spectators to move during matches.

“I mean, I like it. I’m also, like, one of those people,” she said. “I don’t really get bothered if people are standing or yelling or talking, not yelling maybe. So I can see how, yeah, that’s a cool way to look at it.”

She added: “I think, yeah, to bring some personality to the sport, I think we have to start looking at some different things to touch a younger generation.

“And guys like Foe who have so much personality and so much energy, they love it, and they have such an amazing fan base, and they have so many fans outside of tennis, I feel like because of his energy. So I think something that could compliment, that would really help the sport.”

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