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“Now is the time” for ATP-WTA merger, says Federer

Roger Federer (Credit: Getty Images)

Roger Federer has called for a merger between the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association, the governing bodies that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tennis tours.

In a string of Twitter posts, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said “now is the time” for the ATP and WTA Tours to come together due to the devastating financial effects on the sport of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Federer wrote: “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?…I am picturing a merger between the WTA and ATP.”

He added: “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…. It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories.”

Federer’s proposal was met with immediate support from throughout the tennis community.

Rafael Nadal, Federer’s longtime rival, said: “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.”

Women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King wrote: “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.”

All professional tennis has been suspended until at least mid-July because of the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to the cancellation of Wimbledon.

The health crisis has illuminated just how fractured the sport is after the French Tennis Federation, without any wider consultation, postponed the French Open until late September. The move enforced a cancellation of the Laver Cup, which was founded by Federer’s management company.

Earlier this month, Andrea Gaudenzi, the new chairman of the ATP tennis tour, said the Covid-19 crisis highlighted the need for a more collective model in tennis, suggesting that tennis media rights are too “fragmented” and bemoaning the tendency for tournaments to act unilaterally.

Gaudenzi told Ubitennis in his first interview since he replaced Chris Kermode in January: “What happened proved that tennis needs stronger regulations, so that the tournaments can co-exist, and not just scheduling-wise. Our main focus needs to be our fans.”

The Rafa Nadal Academy, a tennis complex located in the hometown of the men’s world No.2, has offered itself up as a hub for ATP and WTA Tour players to compete during the public health crisis.