Cape Town - In what is evidence of a veritable worldwide tennis boom, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has served up a revealing report that indicates as evidence of the game's growth the presence of more than 87 million registered players internationally.
The report is based on information received from the body's 195 full member nations - including South Africa but not the 16 part-time affiliates - and shows that tennis is probably second only to soccer as the world's most participated and followed sport.
The ITF report also reveals the presence of 71 000 tennis clubs, with 489 000 courts and 164 000 registered professional coaches overall who are registered with their national associations.
A little surprisingly, perhaps, is the fact that as many as 47 percent of the overall number of players are females.
"There has been a dramatic growth in all the various aspects of tennis during the past decade," said ATP president David Haggerty, "but the increases over the past year, including spectator attendances at major tournaments, are unprecedented."
The ITF also points to the huge increase of interest in tennis by the wider sport fraternity in general and can boast more superstars of the calibre of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams who are household names worldwide and are only bettered by the number of acclaimed soccer icons.
The popularity of tennis in South Africa remains considerable, but tends not to show the advances of the sport on a worldwide basis - although an encouraging aspect here is the emergence of more young players among the black segment of the population.
And while major professional tournaments are spreading like wildfire around the globe, there have not been any ATP Tour or WTA tournaments in South Africa during the past eight years.
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