BBC's Wimbledon Final Coverage Draws Biggest U.K. Tennis Audience Since at Least 1990

Clive Mason/Getty Images

As many as 16.9 million tuned in to watch Scottish star Andy Murray lose out to Roger Federer in the first final with a British player since 1938.

LONDON - Sunday's Wimbledon men singles final between Scottish hopeful Andy Murray and Switzerland's Roger Federer at its peak drew the biggest tennis audience in the U.K. since at least 1990.

The audience for Murray's four-set defeat also marked a record for a British player at the famous Grand Slam tournament.

The match featuring the first British man in a Wimbledon final since 1938 reached a five-minute peak audience of 16.9 million on BBC 1, for a share of 67.9 percent of people watching TV at the time. A BBC spokeswoman said that this peak, set around 6pm local time at the match's conclusion, was the highest peak audience for a Wimbledon final since at least 1990. That is as far back as modern ratings data is available, according to one observer.

On average, the game attracted 11.4 million viewers, for a share of 58.2 percent, just edging out the 2009 final between Federer and Andy Roddick in 2009.

The previous peak for a British man in Wimbledon was reached with 13.1 million viewers for the Tim Henman clash with Michel Kratochvil in the fourth round of the 2002 tournament.

A BBC spokeswoman didn't immediately have average viewership data for the whole tournament.

The Murray match wasn't as widely watched as some of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament games last month and the Queen's recent jubilee concert.

The England-Italy Euro 2012 quarterfinal, for example, drew a peak audience of 23.2 million viewers, a 77 percent share of people watching TV at the time, who saw their team lose a penalty shoot-out on the BBC. The average audience amounted to 20.3 million viewers, a 68 percent share.

In comparison, the Queen's jubilee concert, which featured the likes of Paul McCartney, Annie Lennox and Elton John, earlier this summer drew an average of 14.7 million viewers, or a share of 57.4 percent. At its peak, the BBC brought in 17 million viewers, or a share of 65.4 percent, with it.

Many British papers on Monday addressed the disappointment about Murray's loss in similar headlines. The Daily Telegraph's front page read: "Tearful Murray Loses on Court, But Wins the Nation's Heart at Last." The Guardian's headline said: "Crying Game. Murray falls short as faultless Federer takes seventh title." And the Independent showed a picture of an anguished Murray with the headline: "Andy, we know how you feel."

"Break Point," the Daily Mirror tabloid titled. "Andy Weeps After Final Defeat…But Wins Hearts of the Nation." And News Corp.'s The Sun offered: "Andy did us proud…now bring on Olympics."


Twitter: @georgszalai