Following his Centre Court victory at Wimbledon 2024, tennis star Novak Djokovic voiced apprehensions about tennis’s future, citing pickleball’s growing popularity as a potential threat to the sport.

Tennis at Risk, Warns Djokovic

Novak Djokovic, the seven-time Wimbledon champion, has warned that club tennis is under threat. Despite its global popularity, Djokovic believes that tennis is struggling at the grassroots level, citing inaccessibility and affordability as major concerns.

“We’re failing to make tennis accessible and affordable for millions of children who want to play,” Djokovic said after his Saturday win against Alexei Popyrin on Centre Court. “The future of tennis is in danger.”

The rise of alternative racket sports like padel and pickleball has further fueled Djokovic’s concerns about the long-term viability of traditional tennis.

Djokovic Urges Action to Protect Tennis as Padel and Pickleball Rise

Novak Djokovic has called for establishing a foundation to safeguard tennis at the club level, as the sport faces increasing competition from alternative pursuits like padel and pickleball.

Padel, a squash-tennis hybrid, has gained immense popularity in the UK, with over 500 dedicated courts and 200,000 active players, including celebrities like Stormzy, David Beckham, and Andy Murray. Originating in Mexico in the 1960s, padel is played on a smaller court with back walls and has attracted 30 million players and 63,000 courts worldwide.

Meanwhile, in the US, pickleball has emerged as the fastest-growing sport, with an estimated 48.3 million players according to APP report, including celebrity enthusiasts like Larry David, the Kardashians, and Leonardo DiCaprio. This rapid growth has raised concerns about the future of traditional tennis, prompting Djokovic’s appeal for a foundation to protect the sport’s grassroots.

Djokovic Sounds Alarm on Tennis’s Club-Level Crisis

Novak Djokovic emphasized the urgent need for action to protect tennis at the club level, as alternative racket sports like padel and pickleball gain popularity.

“Tennis is the king or queen of all racket sports, but at the club level, it’s endangered,” Djokovic warned. “If we don’t act collectively, padel and pickleball will convert tennis clubs into their own courts, simply because it’s more economical.”

Djokovic highlighted the financial appeal of alternative sports, noting that three padel courts can be built on the space of a single tennis court, making it a more viable option for club owners.

“We need to do something about it, or tennis will lose its grassroots presence,” Djokovic urged. “It’s time for us to come together to protect the future of tennis at the club level.”

Padel’s Rise in the UK Threatens Tennis’s Grassroots

As padel’s popularity surges in the UK, tennis faces a growing threat at the grassroots level. Padel court rentals in London can cost up to £80 per hour, and new courts are sprouting up nationwide.

Recently, a £2.5m complex with 11 courts, a clubhouse, and a gym is set to be built in Greater Manchester, billed as the “largest padel facility in the north”. Additionally, six international-level courts have been approved for construction in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Novak Djokovic warns that the future of grassroots tennis is under increasing threat, particularly in countries like his native Serbia, which lacks a strong tennis federation, history, and resources. As padel’s growth continues unchecked, Djokovic fears that tennis may lose its footing at the local level.