Roger Federer has tossed a pebble into the political waters of tennis. Whether the ripples will reach the authorities within are yet to be seen but they will fuel many a discussion over the coming months as the sport awaits a restart of the respective tours.
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 Roger Federer
The Swiss icon, the holder of a record 20 grand slam titles, is suggesting that ‘now is the time’ for the ATP and the WTA, the respective governing bodies of the men’s and women’s tours, to merge.
It is something many people have advocated over the years in order to normalise the differences which exist in rules, ranking systems, etc., but has never been openly suggested by an active player until now.
“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?” Federer tweeted.
“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.
“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,” he added, declaring it was “too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories”.
Federer made his suggestion via Twitter and in fact it has received strong support, not least from the likes of Nick Kyrgios who responded with a simple ‘Yes’ and the two-time grand slam champion Simona Halep.
Fellow icon Rafa Nadal was equally supportive, declaring via Twitter: “Hey Roger as you know per our discussions I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men’s and women’s tennis in one only organisation”
Interestingly the former WTA chief executive Anne Worcester had called for a merger like Federer, in an interview with Forbes this month.
Whether this suggestion will get any traction with the powers that be, is unlikely.
There is little cooperation between the two factions, despite over recent years, some more high-profile events being staged at the same venue.
Neither organisation will wish to see its influence diluted. Whether that view will alter as a result of the current pandemic which has seen the tours suspended and Wimbledon cancelled, is possible.
That possibility might be greater if the tours are cancelled for the year which no doubt would attract a variety of problems with sponsors, venues and broadcasters.
A merger, when tennis is facing its biggest crisis in the Open era, would seem sensible. It would provide a great opportunity for tennis to rebrand itself for the sport’s sake.