Mouratoglou says UTS attracting new demographic to the game

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams, says the innovative exhibition league he helped launch in June has brought new, younger fans to the sport.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 12, 2019 Serena Williams of the U.S. coach Patrick Mouratoglou before practice REUTERS/Hannah McKay

With the main tours suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mouratoglou launched the Ultimate Tennis Showdown at his Nice academy last month, attracting top-10 players including Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini and David Goffin.

The competition features a shorter, more dynamic format, which resembles a tie-breaker in the traditional game, and is played in four 10-minute quarters.

Mouratoglou declined to share the number of subscribers on his live-streaming platform but said the signs were promising.

“What I can say is that 50% of our fans were not regular tennis fans, people who were not following tennis before UTS,” he told Reuters by video call from France ahead of the final weekend of the second edition of the UTS.

“This was our first goal. And the second goal was to reach out to a younger audience, and the average age of the UTS fan was 30. So that’s extremely satisfying.”

Mouratoglou said there had been a positive response to the format.

“I’m not saying it’s perfect, because it’s not,” he added. “It can be improved and we’ve got to work hard to improve it, but for a first edition, and now second, it’s very nice.”

Four women, including Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Ons Jabeur, will feature for the first time at the weekend, while Alexander Zverev and Felix Auger-Aliassime are the top draws on the men’s side.

Mouratoglou said he hoped to work with the ATP and WTA to keep the UTS concept alive when the professional tours resume after the coronavirus shutdown.

Editing by Peter Rutherford