ITF Annual Report finds more children picking up a racket for the first time
August 25, 2022
More young people are picking up a tennis racket for the first time, according to the latest annual reporting data released today by the world governing body of tennis, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), as the sport rebounds from the global pandemic.
The ITF’s Junior Tennis Initiative – which introduces tennis to 14-year-olds and under – saw 213,212 children participating last year, up by 23.1% from 173,194 during the previous 12 months. Just over half of participants (51%) were girls across a record 142 countries where the initiative was delivered.
A total of 6,090 school teachers and tennis coaches delivered sessions as part of the Junior Tennis Initiative in 2021, up 15.5% on 5,273 in 2020, while 3,570 primary schools and tennis clubs created playing opportunities for the youngsters, up 7.8% from 3,312 the previous year.
The ITF initiative is the launch pad for many aspiring competitive players. It is highly encouraging, therefore, for the sport for competition entries amongst participating children to increase by 47.1% last year to 193,231, up from 131,375 entries in 2020.
By comparison, at the highest level of global tennis, the Davis Cup enjoyed its highest participation in 20 years with 137 nations competing in the latest edition of the men’s World Cup of Tennis (four more than in 2019). The Billie Jean King Cup, the women’s World Cup of Tennis, attracted its highest participation ever, with 107 nations competing (14 more than previously).
Global development of the game
In research conducted by the ITF, their Global Tennis Report identified that Africa accounts for 2.2% of professional ranked players but by contrast has 6.4% of junior ranked players. Central America and Caribbean is responsible for 1.4% of professionals but 5.2% of junior ranked players. Asia is responsible for 14.9% of professional ranked players and 18.2% of junior ranked players; in South America it is 7.6% and 9% respectively; and in Oceania it is 3.4% and 3.8% – all indicating the global development of the game.
The Report identified Europe as the region of the world with by far the most professional ranked players, representing 58.7% of the global total, and junior ranked players, 46% of the total. However, these statistics also highlight that Europe is the region with the greatest difference between the number of ranked professionals and juniors, and is one of only two regions globally responsible for a smaller percentage of junior ranked players compared to professional ranked players. The other is North America, where the difference is very small with 11.7% of ranked professionals and 11.4% of ranked juniors from the region.
In terms of individual nations, the USA tops both lists, accounting for 10.1% of all professional ranked players, but slightly fewer junior ranked players (8.9%). Second for professional ranked players is France, responsible for 6.3% of the total, but it is third in terms of junior ranked players with 3.8%, behind Russia in second with 5.4%. India has the fourth most junior ranked players, 3.4% of the total globally, but the second most populous country in the world sits outside the top 10 for today’s ranked professionals (14th most in the rankings with 2%).
David Haggerty, President of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said:
“There are more than 87 million tennis players around the world and all of us at the ITF are committed to increasing participation levels even further. It’s vitally important that the game is for everyone; for all ages, genders, playing standards and physical abilities, and anywhere the game can be played, which we are working hard to ensure is everywhere, in one form or another.
“Following the pandemic, to see more children picking up a racket as part of the ITF’s Junior Tennis Initiative is hugely rewarding and a sign that things are on a positive track for the future. At the very core of ITF2024, our strategy for sustainable growth, is developing the game globally and how we can support national tennis associations in delivering around the world. Together, with the right strategy, funding and commitment, I believe the future is very bright for our sport.”
A decade of major investment in the world game
The ITF also revealed today that it has contributed more than half a billion US Dollars over the last decade into tennis globally, in addition to the significant contribution of national tennis associations around the world.
Between 2012 and 2021 the ITF invested $621.9 million – or £527.2 million or €623.9 million – to support all aspects of the game, including funding for staging major events such as the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup and their associated participation payments and prize money; tennis development programmes, grants and education costs; tours and player pathways, including the ITF World Tennis Tour (and Juniors), junior team competitions, UNIQLO Wheelchair Tennis Tour, Seniors tennis and Beach tennis; investments in integrity, science and technical aspects of the game; commercial development; and communications and marketing to promote the sport globally.
Given the ITF’s mission is to deliver tennis for future generations, each year it reinvests approximately 90% of its income back into growing the sport and this level of investment is set to continue. This means that a growth in the ITF’s commercial revenues as it continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and develop the game globally will produce more funding for tennis.
In addition to the ITF’s reinvestment into the game, funding for the development of tennis is also provided by the four Grand Slam tournaments via the Grand Slam Player Development Programme (GSPDP). Since its inception in 1986, the programme has contributed more than $57 million to international player development. In 2021 the GSPDP delivered $1.12 million in support of talented players worldwide through grants, tournaments and touring teams. This investment was pandemic-impacted in 2021 but is expected to return to the pre-pandemic figure of circa $3 million in 2022.
Annual financial snapshot
The ITF’s newly published Annual Review containing its fully-audited 2021 financials confirmed that the international federation’s operating income in 2021 grew to $66.6 million from $35.6 million in 2020, having been impacted over the course of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last full year of pre-pandemic accounts was 2019, when the ITF generated operating income of $88.7 million.
In 2021 the ITF increased operating expenditure – its investment in tennis – by 67.3% to $74.8 million from $44.7 million in 2020 as part of its journey back to recovery.
In 2021 the ITF chose to draw on $5.5 million of its reserves in order to continue to deliver high levels of investment. The ITF has built significant financial reserves for such an eventuality through prudent financial management and at the end of 2021 still held reserves totalling $44.4m.
The Covid-19 global pandemic cost the ITF more than $75 million in revenues over two years (2020 and 2021) when compared to 2019 operating income**. For example, the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup generate vitally important revenues for the ITF to reinvest back into tennis. Those competitions taking two years to complete over the course of 2020 and 2021 reduced their financial contribution in this period, before they have returned to annual contests from 2022.
Kelly Fairweather, Chief Executive Officer of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), said: “It’s a source of real pride that the ITF has been able to contribute more than half a billion dollars to tennis globally over the last ten years. We are working hard to develop and support the health of the game around the world, for all abilities and ages to play, and for the enjoyment of more than a billion fans.
“It’s so important we remain robust financially to ensure strong grassroots funding right through to the highest levels of our sport, and we embrace innovative ways in which people can participate or engage with the game and its variants, from beach tennis to padel tennis.
“I’m confident we’re on a growth trajectory as we recover from the challenges of the global pandemic and I’m proud of how the ITF team and the global tennis family is responding. Now, as one generation of heroes evolve into the next stage of their lives having made such an incredible contribution to our sport, the next is stepping up; whether that’s in the playground, on the podium or everything in between.”