The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced that tennis participation increased by 22 percent in 2020, with 21.64 million people hitting the courts according to recent data from the Physical Activity Council’s Participation (PAC) report produced by Sports Marketing Surveys.

The survey and report monitor more than 120 different sports and activities participated in by Americans.

Of the more than 21 million Americans who said they played tennis last year, 6.78 million were new or returning players. The nearly three million new players (2.96 million) was a 44 percent increase over new players in 2019. Also, the 3.82 million Americans who returned to the sport was a 40 percent increase over those returning to the sport in 2019.

“We are thrilled that so many new and existing players came back to the sport – especially in what was such a challenging year for so many people,” said Mike Dowse, USTA chief executive officer and executive director. “These new participation numbers are a testament to the hard work, passion and commitment of a united industry that worked together to ensure that tennis not only survived but that it thrived. Even though we continue to face challenges, it’s evident that many people recognize tennis as the ideal social distancing sport, which puts it in a great position to continue to grow and allow people to stay active and social in a healthy and safe manner.”

In addition to the increased participation highlighted in the report, the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), the trade association that assists in monitoring the U.S. tennis industry, reported that racquet sales in the entry-level category have seen significant year-on-year growth of nearly 40 percent.

A number of factors can be attributed to the positive tennis industry trends, including:

  • Tennis is the ideal social-distancing sport: The USTA, with input from the USTA Medical Advisory Group, established a series of recommendations and guidelines on how to play tennis safely for both players and facilities. A recent study also analyzed the surface of balls used in various sports and showed that tennis balls, used during normal play, are unlikely to put players at risk for COVID-19.
  • Tennis has health benefits: One of the largest sport-specific studies published in the July 2020 edition of the Journal of Medicine and Science in Tennis, showed that those who play tennis have higher general, physical, social, and mental health scores than the general population.

“We are excited to see these positive trends and such significant growth in our sport,” said Craig Morris USTA chief executive officer, community tennis. “We are energized to continue putting forward key industry partnerships and quality programming to ensure new and existing players of all ages and abilities have the best experience playing the sport for a lifetime.”

To capitalize on the momentum surrounding participation, the USTA collaborated with manufacturers and retailers to include a “Net Generation” hangtag on over 400,000 youth racquets sold by sporting goods and tennis retailers across the U.S. Beginning in early Q2, the hangtags will include information about Net Generation, the official youth tennis brand of the USTA, via a QR code announcing local play opportunities and access to the free youth USTA membership making it easier for kids to play tennis.

The USTA will continue to provide resources to certified providers and facilities across the U.S. to ensure new and existing tennis players have access to programming.

To read the full report, go here.