Steve Simon, the chairman and chief executive of the Women’s Tennis Association, says he is in favor of a merger with the Association of Tennis Professionals.
The prospect of a merger between the governing bodies that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tennis tours gained momentum last month when Roger Federer said in a string of Twitter posts that “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.
No formal or detailed discussions toward a union of the properties have begun. But Simon says the WTA is interested in the idea.
“I’m not afraid of the full merger; I never have been,” Simon told The New York Times. “I would certainly be the first to support it, because I think then you truly have the business and the strategic principles all aligned, which is what you need to do. Obviously it’s a long and winding road to get there, but I think it makes all the sense in the world.”
The coronavirus crisis has shut down tennis since mid-March, leading to scores of events being postponed or canceled, including Wimbledon. The ATP and WTA Tours are due to return in mid-July but there remains doubt about whether this will happen.
“I hope we can return before the end of the year, but unfortunately, I don’t think so,” Rafael Nadal told Spanish newspaper El Pais.
He added: “I would sign up to being ready for 2021. I’m more worried about the Australian Open than what occurs at the end of this year. I think 2020 is practically lost. I hope we can start up again next year, I really hope that’s the case.”
Both tours have imposed pay cuts or furloughs to deal with the financial crisis, as has the International Tennis Federation.
But Simon added: “This isn’t about trying to save the WTA. We’ll be fine, but look, if we’re going to do the right business thing and we’re finally going to bring the sport together, I think the WTA would be very supportive of this concept.”
There is some concern that the WTA Tour would become overshadowed by the ATP Tour in a merger. But Simon said: “It’s not an acquisition. This isn’t about either tour taking territory.”
He added: “Right now we compete against ourselves as well as all the other leagues and entertainment properties. We compete for fans, partners, sponsorships as well as broadcast and data, so the alignment allows you to aggregate assets.”