As Serena Williams draws curtains on her tennis career, we look at YouGov Global Fan Profiles data to reveal her immense fan following across the globe.
Globally, she is the fourth-most popular tennis player among those who say they watch or follow tennis on a regular basis, behind only the men’s Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Overall, a fifth of tennis fans name Serena Williams (21%) as one of their favourite athletes, meaning she is almost twice as popular as the next female athlete on the list – Naomi Osaka (12%).
The fact that Williams retains such a high position on the ladder in spite of her appearances on court becoming increasingly sporadic in recent years is a testament to her enduring legacy.
Among her compatriots, Serena Williams is the favorite tennis athlete, with two in five American tennis fans (38%) indicating the same, leaving behind Roger Federer (30%), Rafael Nadal (30%) and Novak Djokovic (24%) by some margin.
Not just in the US, but Williams enjoys outsized popularity in a variety of nations in the Americas. Two-fifths of Colombian (41%) and Mexican (40%) tennis fans say she is their favourite tennis athlete, as do three in ten Brazilians (31%) and a quarter of Canadians (26%).
In most markets across the globe, she is the top female tennis player. The notable exceptions to this trend being China, Japan, Germany, and Australia, where homegrown stars like Zhang Shuai, Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, and Ash Barty supersede Williams in popularity.
Off the field, the 23-time champion has been an icon for inclusivity and feminism. Have her efforts made an impact on society? Looking at YouGov Profiles data from the US, we find that Serena Williams fans are significantly likelier than all sports fans to disagree with the statement “watching women’s sport is not as exciting as watching men’s”. Nearly half of Serena Williams fans (45%) disagree with that statement compared to just 29% of all sports fans. Williams fans are much more likely to find the excitement in women’s sport.
Serena Williams fans are also 14 percentage points likelier to feel that “men and women are still not treated equally in the workplace” (84% vs 70% of all sports fans) and are nine points likelier to opine that “sports need to be more inclusive” (68% vs 57%).
Williams leaves the court having made an indelible mark on the history of tennis and on the sporting landscape in general – but with still more work to be done by the authorities on equality according to her fans.
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Methodology: YouGov Global Fan Profiles, which includes data from 38 markets, is based on continuously collected data from several sources, rather than from a single limited questionnaire.