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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Roger Federer suggests merger of ATP-WTA, gets huge support

Tennis enjoys a massive worldwide following but its governance remains fractious with as many as seven associations running different parts the game.

By: Reuters | Updated: April 23, 2020 1:52:36 pm
Roger Federer, Roger Federer French Open 2020, Roger Federer clay court, tennis news Roger Federer called for a merger between the men’s ATP Tour and the WTA. (Reuters/File Photo)

Roger Federer called on Wednesday for a merger between the men’s ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women’s circuit, as tennis wades through a lengthy coronavirus shutdown with lower-level professionals in deep financial crisis.

The tennis season was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July, depriving lower-level players, who depend solely on tournament winnings, of the chance to earn a living.

“Just wondering … am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men’s and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one?” the winner of 20 Grand Slam singles titles said on Twitter.

“I am picturing a merger between the WTA and ATP.

“I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours …”

Tennis enjoys a massive worldwide following but its governance remains fractious with as many as seven associations running different parts the game. Besides the ATP and the WTA Tours, the sport is also controlled by the International Tennis Federation and the boards of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

“It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories,” the 38-year-old Swiss continued.

“It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time.

“These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body.”

Federer’s comments on the social media were ‘liked’ by both men and women players within minutes.

“I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis,” American great Billie Jean King, who created the WTA in 1973, said on Twitter.

“The WTA on its own was always Plan B. I’m glad we are on the same page. Let’s make it happen.”

While tennis is a lucrative sport for those at the top, those in the lower echelons often struggle to make ends meet and with no signs of when the sport can resume again, they face a bleak future.

The ATP Tour, the WTA, along with the ITF and organisers of the four Grand Slams, have in recent weeks joined forces to create a relief fund to help the lower-level players affected by the shutdown.

Who said what:

# Novak Djokovic, the head of the ATP player council, said he feared many in the lower tier will give up the sport and called on fellow professionals to help them.

# ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi recently said it was extremely important that his organisation works closely with its women’s counterparts. “The most difficult (part), is actually to align the stakeholders,” the Italian, formerly a top-20 singles player, said in an ATP podcast.

# Federer’s longtime rival and friend Rafael Nadal said he was fully in support of having one organization oversee men’s and women’s tennis.

# WTA founder and American tennis great Billie Jean King, who successfully campaigned for equal pay for men and women prior to the 1973 U.S. Open, also tweeted her support for Federer’s suggestion.

# Three-time Grand Slam winner Stanislas Wawrinka said during an Instagram Live, “It was not just a comment like that, there is more talk behind that. Gaudenzi at the ATP was already talking about it.”

# Australian star Nick Kyrgios and two-time women’s Grand Slam champion Simona Halep also said they were behind the idea.

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