Closing Shot: Crowd Favorite
The success of the 2019 U.S. Open can be measured in … melon balls. Attendees drank more than 250,000 of the tournament’s signature drink, the Honey Deuce, requiring 35,000 pounds of honey dew melon balls to adorn all those cocktails.
Those numbers are high because the event’s attendance keeps soaring: During the qualifiers, U.S. Open Fan Week set a record with a 115,355, while the main draw ascended to a new peak with 737,872 fans, totaling a three-week mark of 853,227. (Most fans, it seemed, took a turn getting their picture taken in front of the National Tennis Center’s dramatic new sculpture honoring Althea Gibson, the first African American tennis champion.)
“One big takeaway was that Fan Week really became a part of what is now a three-week experience,” said Lew Sherr, U.S. Tennis Association chief revenue officer. “The accessibility of star players had fans excited and ESPN was able to get great content, too. This will only grow over time.”
During the main draw, many came to see aging but ageless megastars like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, but found themselves captivated by a new generation, particularly 15-year-old American phenom Coco Gauff, 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu, who overpowered Williams in the women’s final, and 23-year-old Daniil Medvedev, who had fans chanting his name as he pushed Nadal to the brink in a mesmerizing five-set men’s final.
“This year underscored how vibrant our event is but also the resurgence around tennis with great new personalities in the sport,” said Sherr.
Those matches propelled the tournament to higher television audiences in America and beyond. ESPN’s live, exclusive coverage was seen by an average of 1,275,000 viewers, up 23% from last year and the network’s most ever for the event. It topped 2015, ESPN’s first year of exclusivity for the entire tournament, which averaged 1,265,000 viewers.
The women’s singles final on Sept. 7 earned a 2.0 rating and an average of 3,219,000 viewers; the highest since ESPN began its exclusive coverage. This year’s men’s final lasted 4 hours and 50 minutes yet posted a 1.6 rating, with an average of 2,751,000 viewers, making it the most-watched men’s final since 2015.
Meanwhile, Eurosport garnered double-digit ratings increases across all its channels and platforms, and Sherr said the USTA heavily promoted the event around the world, especially in China. “The global appeal of the U.S. Open is important for our sponsors,” he said.