A couple of years ago I made a post on who was the most popular tennis player in the world using a number of publicly available statistics.
As we're at the start of a new year I thought I'd do a 2014 edition, has there been a shift in powers solely in terms of popularity? Back when I did my original post in 2012 I chose the current top 4 – Djokovic, Nadal, Murray and Federer and whilst the rankings have been shaken up considerably in recent weeks I still think one of those 4 guys is going to the most popular player on the planet currently because other than Wawrinka and to some extent Del Potro there's nobody making waves on the tour.
Things I'm assuming
- One of the following 4 players has to be the most popular – Federer, Djokovic, Murray or Nadal.
- The more searches, mentions, tweets, Facebook fans, articles about them a player has indicates the more popular they are. i.e.. negative sentiment hate isn’t factored.
- I’m using the players full names to keep it consistent where possible.
As part of my investigation I'll look at a number of sources that I have available to get some raw numbers on it – searches, social media stats and various other metrics I think are relevant in assessing the popularity of a player. So let's go:
Round 1: Which player has been the most searched on Google in the last 4 years?
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.
One of the big flaws in this data however is that Google isn't widely used in the far east especially in China who use Baidu as their primary search engine so it does wipe out a big chunk of fans for both Roger and to some extent both Nadal and Djokovic. As it happens Facebook and Twitter suffer this fate too as the Chinese use Weibo so it should even itself out.
Round 1 Winner: Rafael Nadal
Round 2: Which players Wikipedia page gets the most views?
Wikipedia is a great tool for assessing popularity because it's usually one of the first results on any search engine when you search for tennis player names. It's also the go to destination for facts and figures. So strictly speaking – the more views a players Wikipedia page has, the more popular they are.
The graphs below show view counts from the last 90 days. Which is probably too short a time frame to really be conclusive (but that's all I have). So if a player bows out of tournament early or something dramatic happens he's bound to get more searches, prior to seeing the results I was expecting Nadal to win this one after his Australian Open exploits. Let's take a look:
- Federer – 619,247 views in last 90 days
- Nadal – 617,760 views in last 90 days
- Djokoic – 325, 189 views in last 90 days
- Murray – 226,678 views in last 90 days
Honorary mention to Wawrink who racked up 477,709 views in the last 90 days, over 90% of which came in a 14 day period!
Round 2 Winner: Roger Federer
Round 3: Who wins Twitter?
As you can see from the image above Nadal dominates this one but Roger has caught up both Murray and Djokovic despite only joining last year. Twitter followers depends heavily on how often the person uses it, so the more the player tweets, the higher number of followers they will have. So it can be slightly misleading. If Roger upped his engagement levels he'd take over both Murray and Djokovic in no time.
Round 3 Winner: Rafael Nadal
Round 4: Who wins Facebook?
- Roger Federer – 13 millions likes
- Rafael Nadal – 12m likes
- Novak Djokovic – 3.9m
- Andy Murray – 2.3m
Facebook is probably a more truer metric than Twitter followers as a players number of likes / follows doesn't depend as much on their own post frequency, it's more about people finding the profile and liking it. Roger takes this one with a cool 13 million likes.
Round 4 Winner: Roger Federer
Round 5 – Who get's searched the most on Google?
- Roger Federer – 823,000 searches per month
- Rafael Nadal – 823,000 searches per month
- Andy Murray – 673,000 searches per month
- Novak Djokovic – 550,000 searches per month
The data above show often people across the globe searched for each player. The numbers quoted are the average number of searches over 12 months on average per month for each player in all locations, languages and devices e.g. mobile, tablet, laptop etc.
Google rounds the numbers of their keyword volume data so sadly I don't have an exact number so we'll never know who edges it.
Round 5 Winner: Tie between Federer and Nadal
The Winner: Two way tie between Federer and Nadal
Based on 5 rounds looking at various different metrics the most popular tennis player is a two way tie between Federer and Nadal. Aalthough none of these metrics really mean a great deal or are truly representative I do think they are pretty close to the truth just based on what I see with my own eyes both live at tournaments and from the online world. It's a pity I couldn't factor in crowd cheer decibels when they walk on court as I think Fed would be announced the clear winner.
These 2 guys are by far and away the most popular guys on tour with the fans and considerably streets ahead of the likes of Murray and Djokovic. I was quite surprised at just how ahead they are to be honest, Murray is a 2 time slam winner now yet has a very limited fan base. Looks like the likability factor is a big deal after all.
I think with Federer and Nadal neck and neck, it really depends on which one plays the better Tennis at the bigger tournaments as to who is the most popular from here on in. If Nadal doesn't have a good year and Federer does, or vice versa, one of them will edge it in the popularity stakes due to the increased media and television exposure they get. Consequently if we have another Lance Armstrong case on our hands then Roger runs away with it 😛
Probably the most interesting thing is that Roger's popularity has never wained, he's won 2 slams out of a possible 17 in the last 4 years whereas Djokovic and Murray have 7 between them in that time yet only have about 20% the amount of fans as Federer. He's clearly on the down swing in his career but his fan base continues to grow and he's still the top earner in sponsorship deals by a long way.
Why do you think Federer and Nadal are by far and away the most popular in the sport? Is it simply because they've won the most or is there more to it than that? Do you think one is more popular than the other?