Thu Nov 19 05:05pm EST
A study commissioned by the USTA found that 30.1 million Americans laced up their tennis shoes and hit the court in 2009. That's a 12.5 percent increase from 2008 and almost 25 percent more than in 2003, back when Roger Federer was just that guy with the ponytail.
The survey showed participation grew in all age groups under 50 and within all ethnic groups. The biggest increases were among Hispanics, with 32 percent more playing the game. Blacks had a 19 percent increase.
There were 7.1 million newcomers to the sport, a 19.5 percent increase from last year. Regular players, those playing between four and 20 times a year, increased 26 percent this year to 14.8 million.
Looks like McDonald's isn't the only thing that can thrive during a recession. Because though the USTA didn't give any reasons why the game's popularity is rising, it's logical to assume it has something to do with the economic downturn. Springing for a can of Penns and dusting off the ol' racquet is a lot more affordable than plunking down $85 for greens fees or $50 for a lift ticket.
Popularity in professional tennis is rising too. Ratings for Wimbledon, which rapidly declined during this decade, have surged in the past three years. The U.S. Open also did impressive numbers this year, thanks to the successes of Melanie Oudin and the switch from USA to ESPN2.