The final Grand Slam tournament of the year kicks off next week – and it comes with a historic hook for the casual fan. Weeks before this year’s U.S. Open, Serena Williams announced her plans to retire soon after the event, which likely makes it her final major tournament. Regardless of how Williams finishes, it might be the last chance to see an all-time great take the court.
According to a recent CivicScience survey, just 7% of Americans are ‘very likely’ to tune into the U.S. Open – but nearly one quarter of adults say they might watch. Although most pro sports are in perpetual battle to win over young fans, pro tennis seems to be in decent shape. The 18-to-24 age group is twice as likely as the 55-and-over set to be at least somewhat interested in watching the U.S. Open. The current guard of stars, including Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic, and Iga Swiatek, are giving young fans something to be excited about.
Americans who’ve cut the cord are also more likely to be interested in watching the U.S. Open this year – which coincides with the strong interest levels from younger adults. One-third of all cord-cutters are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to tune in, which well outpaces the Gen Pop. Luckily for this subset, there should be a bounty of options for tuning in without a cable plan, including ESPN+, Sling TV, FuboTV, and more — which isn’t always a guarantee for major sporting events.
No matter how she performs in the tournament this year, Williams’ announcement will likely bring in a few more casual fans who wouldn’t otherwise be watching the U.S. Open. Twelve percent of adults claim to be ‘more likely’ to watch the tournament in light of her retirement announcement, but even more – 19% – claim to be less interested due to the news. The ratings might help clarify how many in the latter group were serious about watching the U.S. Open in the first place.
Despite Williams’ unrivaled dominance over the women’s tennis field, nearly 60% of adults more likely to watch the U.S. Open due to her retirement are men. Those unaffected by the retirement news are evenly split across gender lines.
Although tennis is one of those sports without a single flagship event, like the World Series or Super Bowl, the added heft of Williams retiring could sustain interest in this year’s U.S. Open beyond previous recent installments. And if by some chance she makes an early exit, maybe one of the young tennis fans tuning in can stick around to find their next favorite player.