>> Saturday, February 11, 2012
Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova continue to be the most popular tennis players in the WTA tour for 2011. Using Google Trends , a public web facility of Google used for comparing world’s interest in your favorite topics, Serena and Sharapova have the greatest volume of searches worldwide in 2011. The comparison was made amongst the current top-ranked tennis players, Grand Slam winners in the past 20 years, and all women’s tennis players who were ranked #1. Serena and Sharapova’s popularity, despite not being among the top 3 best players for 2011, is a statement to their appeal not just in the tennis arena, but as global celebrities as well.
Serena Williams was most searched in the following countries: United States, Nigeria, South Africa, Canada and Ireland. Her popularity peaked at the US Open where she reached the finals losing to Australian Sam Stosur and where she was also fined $2000 for an outburst she directed at a sports official in the US Open finals. Other reasons for Serena’s popularity included her return to tennis during the grass court season and in March when she was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism.
Maria Sharapova is hugely popular amongst fans in South Asia and North Africa. The top countries searching for Sharapova are Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria, India and Tunisia. Sharapova who is equally known for her pleasant physical attributes as with her tennis prowess rose in popularity during her run to the Wimbledon final and for equaling her best semifinal finish at the French Open. It is interesting to note that one of the top search terms for the star is “hot Maria Sharapova”.
Behind Serena and Sharapova, 2011 top-ranked player, Caroline Wozniacki was the next most popular player. Wozniacki was most searched in European countries with searches in Denmark four times more than the second highest country expressing most interest in the Danish player. Other countries where WOzniacki is popular are in Ireland, Belgium, Norway and the United Kingdom. Her popularity rose during Australian Open and US Open campaigns.
The next group of popular WTA players are an interesting batch – French Open champion Li Na, India’s Sania Mirza, former world #1 players Venus Williams and Ana Ivanovic, and yes, Anna Kournikova. Li Na’s success at the Australian Open where she reached the championship match before losing to Kim Clijsters, and for her historic win at the French Open contributed to her 2011 popularity. Outside of China, she is most searched in Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
Sania Mirza’s top searches are in Pakistan, with her home country of India generating the second most searches. Mirza, a Muslim, is a huge celebrity in predominantly Muslim Pakistan. She was also very popular in the United Arab Emirates and in Saudi Arabia. Peak interests for Mirza were during her Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon participation.
5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams is most searched in the United States, Ireland, South Africa, United Kingdom and New Zealand. Interest for Venus was high during her Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open tournaments. It was at the US Open that Venus was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease which forced her to withdraw from the tournament she had previously won twice.
Former world #1 Ana Ivanovic is most popular in her native Serbia. She has also popular in neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other countries showing top interest in the former French Open champion are Australia, New Zealand, Algeria and Switzerland. Searching for Ivanovic was highest during the US Open where she reached the fourth round before falling to Serena Williams.
The interesting person amongst this group of eight popular tennis players is Anna Kournikova. The retired Russian player was most popular in Chile, India, United States, Canada and New Zealand. She generated buzz not on the tennis stage but from outside of it. Top searches for Kournikova was in the summer when she joined the popular show The Biggest Loser, and when there was speculation that she was pregnant with Enrique Iglesias’ baby at the start of 2011.
Surprisingly absent in the most popular players list are a trio of Grand Slam champions. 2011 Australian Open champion Kim Clijsters, Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, and US Open champion Sam Stosur were not included in the list. All three are hugely popular in their home countries, but not popular enough in other countries so to be included in the list. Current world #1 Victoria Azarenka is not in the 2011 list but as of this writing, she is leading the most popular list for 2012.