OriginsInsight Edition 16

Everyone for Tennis!

Summer is the season when the world’s tennis spotlight turns towards Australia. Australian Open players and supporters come from all corners of the globe, making the event a truly international affair.  But how culturally diverse are players who play competitive tennis in Australia?  And how well do they reflect the nation’s growing cultural diversity?

In this piece, we continue our series looking at cultural diversity among leading players in Australian sports (see previous articles on CricketAFL and FFA), and profile the highest ranked tennis players from around the country.

Tennis Australia has 167,000 registered players and more than 260,000 affiliated club members, ranking it among the top three most popular participation sports in the country.1

With reference to the need for greater inclusivity in the sport, Geoff Pollard, former Tennis Australia President said, “Tennis Australia’s participation goal is to ensure that people from all backgrounds are made welcome and enjoy the tennis experience. We highly value equality of opportunity for people of all cultures and believe this is integral to the growth of our sport.”2

And with a comprehensive program to support Indigenous Australians, there is no doubting Tennis Australia’s commitment to improving inclusivity and the promotion of cultural diversity.

Measuring Cultural Diversity

Australia has a proud history of successful tennis players at the elite level.  The number of players with Anglo-Celtic names like Akhurst, Laver, Newcombe, Rosewall, Roche, Court, Cash, Rafters, Arthurs and Hewitt dwarfed those of more diverse origin, such as Goolagong, Philippoussis, Molik and Dokic.

More recently, it is common to see names like Tomic, Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, Groth, Guccione, Stosur, Dellacqua, Gavrilova and Rodionova dominating the rankings while names such as Duckworth, Ebden, Millman and Wolfe seem to be less common.

Scott Draper, former player and Development Manager at Tennis Australia, envisaged a time in the not-too-distant future when the names of old Australia will be in the minority. He saw the change as a “mirror of the nation.”3

At OriginsInfo, we wanted to test Scott’s view and quantify the current state of diversity.

Recognising the challenges of the various ways of collecting and measuring cultural data (see previous edition of OriginsInsight), we used OriginsInfo’s independent name analysis methodology to create a precise evidence base of cultural diversity in the tennis rankings.

We collected the names of 5,935 players from publicly-available sources in October 2014 and assigned a code reflecting the most likely cultural background of each, based on the combination of first and family names.  We coded 100% of players to one of 257 different Origins codes and claim an accuracy level of over 85% using this technique.4

A robust evidence-base is more likely to secure government funding and commercial sponsorship to support programs aimed at promoting greater engagement with key cultural segments.

For practical purposes and to ensure statistical reliability, we grouped the 257 Origins categories into a smaller number of groups – Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, CALD5  – North West European, CALD – Southern and Eastern European, CALD – Non-European.

We compared the proportion of players in those categories with the proportion of the Australian adult population in the same categories.  We also compared the current picture with the results we found when we conducted similar research in 2007.

To provide some detail, the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) categories, the 257 Origins codes have been aggregated to the 12 groups (plus ‘Other’) indicated in Table 1.

Where statistically valid, we also drill-down to the components of the 12 groups for greater precision and insight.

What We Found

In 2014, tennis reflected the cultural mix of the Australian population but still displays considerable under-representation from Cantonese, Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian communities.  Also under-represented are people with English heritage names, perhaps reflecting increasing competition and demand from the team-based football and cricket codes.


To balance this, there is strong representation from the Southern and Eastern European communities, particularly the latter, where there is very solid representation from most Slavic countries.  Greek and Spanish names are well represented, as are German, French and Afrikaner names originating from the North West European region.  Japan is a counter-balance to the otherwise weak Asian representation and, albeit with smaller numbers, players of Oceanian background out-perform relative to their proportion in the wider population.

We then compared how things have changed since the original study in 2007.

Among the sports surveyed tennis and swimming were the only sports to present clear evidence of increasing cultural diversity over the period since 2007. And tennis was a real stand-out, showing the greatest growth in cultural diversity over the period, most clearly marked in the ‘CALD – Non-European’ group.

Representation from Oceania (indigenous Australian and Pacific Islander) has more than trebled and people of African origin have more than doubled.  South Asian and Arabic / North African have almost doubled and there are marked increases in players with Asian Islamic, East Asian and South East Asian origin.


This growth could be due to a number of factors.  Perhaps it reflects a preference by recent first and second-generation migrants for sports that are less team-based. Or perhaps it is a reflection of the priority placed by Tennis Australia in its 2004-2008 strategic plan where publications such as “Tennis: Everybody, Everywhere” were conspicuous elements of media coverage and corporate priorities – perhaps even more so than recent times.

Whatever the reasons, and despite there being further improvement opportunities (notably among the Indian community), the trend is clear.  Tennis is doing a good job of attracting players from Australia’s more recent migrant communities.

The snapshot analysis presented here can be used to inform administrators, sport development officers and government funding bodies about the effectiveness of initiatives from the various sporting codes to broaden engagement with Australia’s multicultural communities.

This analysis can readily be extended to

  • Spectator analysis – ticket sales
  • Club membership
  • Sports for which data is not otherwise available
  • Grass roots participation for major sports

Name recognition provides a fast and cost-efficient way of measuring cultural diversity and creating an evidence base for cultural engagement.  The approach can be applied to

  • Customer lists – with subsets to gain insight into the cultural dimensions of product take-up, value, channel preference, propensity to churn, credit risk, etc,
  • Employee lists – to establish benchmarks for cultural diversity in the workplace and the extent to which it reflects the labour market and the customer base
  • Improved customer service – eg through tailored communication and service on websites and in call centres, and
  • Area profiling – geographically-defined market areas.

Contact us for more information.

1 Tennis Australia 2014-15 Annual Report
2 What’s the score? A survey of cultural diversity and racism in Australian sport, 2007
3 Quoted from Australian junior tennis a melting pot, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 January 2014
4 Accuracy calculated with reference to 12 Customised Origins Groups
5 Culturally and Linguistically Diverse

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