The debate of who is the greatest player of all time crops up at regular intervals, usually when Federer has won a title to boost his credentials, or lost a key match that makes some question whether he truly is the GOAT. But forget the debate of the greatest player, what I want to know is who is the most popular tennis player on the planet?
Without conducting the biggest worldwide survey of it's kind ever, the only data and information I have to go on comes from Google, Social Media and the general online tennis world so that's what I'm using to find the answer.
Thing's I'm assuming:
- A member of the top 4 has to be the most popular – Federer, Djokovic, Murray or Nadal. That's a fair assumption
- The more searches, mentions, tweets, Facebook fans, articles about them a player has indicates the more popular they are. I.e. negative press, hate isn't factored.
- I'm using the players full names to avoid nicknames ruining the data. Bill Murray is still quite popular!
How will it be judged?
5 rounds, each covering a different metric, the player who wins the most rounds will be crowned the peRFect Tennis Most Popular Player on the Planet and receive a cheque for £10 + a bottle of Lambrini.
Round 1: Which Player has had the most “web search interest” over time?
This chart uses the power of Google and looks at the interest in the current top 4 players over the time. Interest is defined as how many times a player is typed into the search box. The numbers on the graph reflect how many searches have been done for a particular term in this case the players name, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. The data is both scaled and normalised.
- On average, since 2004 Roger Federer has had the highest amount of interest.
- No player has had a higher ‘peak' of interest than Roger Federer with his high points coming in 2009 winning the French Open and in 2012 where he won a 7th Wimbledon against Murray.
- The player with the least interest is Novak Djokovic.
Round 1 Winner: Roger Federer
Round 2: Which player has the most content written about them?
- Roger Federer – 40,800,000 Results
- Rafael Nadal – 25,400,00 Results
- Novak Djokovic – 20,900,000 Results
- Andy Murray – 20,300,000 Results
You may have noticed that whenever you type something in Google just above the search listing it tells you approximately how many results are indexed for that query. Basically, that's how many pieces of content written about a particular subject there are.
In this case Roger has almost double the rest of the top 4. Of course it's not 100% accurate and there's nothing scientific behind my test, Roger started his career before the other 3 players so he clearly has a head start but based on those figures alone Roger is written about on average twice as much as everyone else.
Round 2 Winner: Roger Federer
Round 3: Who has the most Facebook ‘Likes'?
- Roger Federer – 11,989,859 likes
- Rafael Nadal – 11,378,818 likes
- Novak Djokovic – 2,514,525 likes
- Andy Murray – 891,728 likes
Round 3 Winner: Roger Federer
I'm unsure which player started their Facebook page first but I do seem to remember that for a period of time Nadal overtook Roger in the number of likes. It's still neck and neck but with Roger pulling clear by 500,000 is it a sign his popularity is increasing even in the twilight of his career?
Round 4: Who gets Tweeted about the most?
Number of tweets about each player in the last 365 days:
- Andy Murray – 1,738,781 Tweets
- Roger Federer – 1,237,202 Tweets
- Rafael Nadal – 596,248 Tweets
- Novak Djokovic – 582,028 Tweets
Unfortunately I only have access to data from the last 365 days so this round somewhat depends on the season the player has had.
Murray streaks ahead due to losing the Wimbledon final and then winning the Olympics and the US Open giving him a great three months over the summer. Nadal is way off the pace but his injury put him out of the spotlight after the French Open. Yet again Novak is bottom of the pack.
Round 4 Winner: Andy Murray
Round 5: Who get's searched the most in Google?
- Roger Federer – 673,000 searches per month
- Rafael Nadal – 450,000 searches per month
- Andy Murray – 301,000 searches per month
- Novak Djokovic – 301,000 searches per month
That data above show often people across the globe searched for each player. The numbers quoted are the average number of searches over 12 months for each player in all locations, languages and devices e.g. mobile, tablet, laptop etc.
I thought after Murray won the Twitter round above he'd be close to the top here as it's only data from the last 12 months but as you can see he only get's searched half as much as Federer.
Round 5 winner: Roger Federer
The Winner: Roger Federer
So there you have it, Roger wins 4 of the 5 rounds and is rightfully crowned the most popular player on the planet. It's the result I expected but it was interesting to see some numbers behind it. The biggest surprise for me was that Djokovic doesn't appear to have a big fan base. It's still early in his career but with his home country Serbia not having a huge population how can he spread his fan base world wide like Roger has managed to do despite Switzerland also being relatively small.
It also begs the question, who will be the next biggest player on the planet? Will someone in the top 4 overtake Roger or does it need a new player to burst onto the scene and win a couple of slams back to back to get everyone talking?
One thing's for sure it's going to take something extraordinary to get close to Roger in terms of worldwide appeal and raw number of fans.
Oh, and it's true what they say, no player is bigger than the game, not even Roger Federer 😉