U.S. game struggles to attract new players

Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:25pm EDT
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

RANCHO MIRAGE, California (Reuters) - An ageing core of recreational players and plunging sales of entry-level rackets are the biggest concerns facing tennis in the United States, according to experts.

Though the U.S. tennis economy grew by 3 percent last year compared to 2013, based on data compiled by the Tennis Industry Association (TIA), much still needs to be done to lure the 18-35 age group to the sport.

"One and a half million fewer people bought entry-level rackets in 2014 than they did in 2008, and that's staggering," TIA president Greg Mason said state in his state of the industry update at the annual Tennis Summit.

"Are they buying them used? Maybe. But to me 1.5 million fewer rackets is a very concerning stat."

Mason, who with his TIA colleagues organized the two-day Tennis Summit held at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa, told Reuters the slowdown entry-level racket sales was one of three major concerns he had for the health of the sport.

"If entry-level racket sales are down, it means fewer people are coming into the game, and that's a big concern," said Mason.

"Secondly, as we look at the average player, they're getting older so we need to make sure that we do more to attract younger people.

"And third, we also want to bring people into the business of the game at a younger age so that we have fresh ideas, fresh approaches. Those are three biggest things we need to address."   Continued...