Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer asked his Twitter followers whether it’s time to merge the men’s and women’s tennis tours on Wednesday morning, a proposal that generated an overwhelmingly positive response from fans and fellow players.
Federer called only for merging the ATP, which governs men’s tennis, with the WTA, which organizes women’s tennis, while still maintaining the two separate on-court tours.
Players Reply to Federer to Support Merger Plan
The Swiss legend noted that a single organization for professional tennis might come out of the coronavirus pandemic stronger than two separate governing bodies.
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?
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 22, 2020
It didn’t take long for responses to pour in from across the tennis world – most of which fully agreed with the proposal.
I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis.
The WTA on its own was always Plan B.
I’m glad we are on the same page.
Let’s make it happen. #OneVoice
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) April 22, 2020
“I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s,” Billie Jean King – who founded the WTA in 1973 – replied. “One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis. The WTA on its own was always Plan B.”
Federer’s longtime rival Rafael Nadal also tweeted in support of the idea.
Hey @rogerfederer 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 🎾👍🏻 https://t.co/fTCfvMiU4G
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) April 22, 2020
“As you know per our discussions I completely agreed 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 organization,” Nadal wrote.
Simona Halep, the No. 2 ranked player on the WTA tour, is also on board with the idea.
You are not the only one 😊
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) April 22, 2020
As Federer noted, one of the biggest benefits would be standardization between the two tours, making following tennis much easier for fans.
“It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories,” Federer tweeted.
The ATP was founded in 1972 to run professional tennis on the men’s side, while the WTA did the same for women’s tennis a year later.
Executives Support Closer Ties Between Tours
Since that time, there have been occasional talks about merging the tours, but the two organizations have never come close to an agreement on the topic.
Earlier this month, former WTA CEO Anne Worcester called for such a merger while speaking to Forbes. New WTA CEO Andrea Gaudenzi stopped short of endorsing that plan, but called for increased cooperation between the tours.
“It is extremely important and I think it is one of our biggest advantages toward our competitors,” Gaudenzi said last week. “Our fans, they love both. We have strong combined tournaments within the ATP and WTA, and the grand slams are combined. It is really a no-brainer and actually, we are lucky to be at the forefront in that regard.”
Any such merger would face numerous logistical and institutional challenges. The Guardian quoted one insider as saying “It’s not going to happen now. Way too much politics.”
For the moment, both the ATP and the WTA (along with the ITF) have suspended all tour play through at least July 13. Organizers have also canceled the 2020 Wimbledon tournament, which has run every year since World War II.