'Now is the time': Tennis world erupts over Roger Federer's 'merger' idea

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, pictured here in action at the 2019 Hopman Cup.
Roger Federer has called for the merger of the men's and women's tennis tours. Image: Getty. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Roger Federer has sparked a frenzy in the tennis world after calling for the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours to be unified.

WTA founder Billie Jean King joined Federer and Rafael Nadal on Wednesday in suggesting “now is the time” to merge the men's ATP and women's body into one umbrella organisation to oversee the two professional tennis tours.

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Federer, holder of the men's record of 20 grand slams, was the first to raise the notion on his Twitter feed, triggering an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from King and Nadal.

“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 said.

“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.”

Federer’s initial tweet garnered 1200 comments and was liked 40,000 times as of Thursday morning.

Trailblazer King, who was a part of establishing the WTA in 1973 and was one of the ‘Original 9’ on the tour, said her support for the idea dates back decades.

“I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis,” she tweeted.

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

Nadal, who has 19 grand slam titles, supported his long-time rival's proposition.

“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,” he said.

Federer says unity should have happened years ago

Federer and Nadal argued by a merger tennis could emerge stronger from the coronavirus lockdown which has seen the sport shut down, with Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II and the French Open pushed back to the end of September.

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

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

He said the current system was “too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories.”

New ATP chief throws support behind idea

The ATP's new chief executive, Andrea Guadenzi, told ATP Tennis Radio this week that working closer together was a “no-brainer”.

“It is extremely important and I think it is one of our biggest advantages towards our competitors,” he said.

“Not only do we have a great women's product, but also our audience is fairly split among women and men. A combined event, I strongly believe, is a better event both on site and (in) media.

“It is just great. The variety is great. Our fans, they love both. We have strong combined tournaments within the ATP and the WTA and the Grand Slams are combined.”

Gaudenzi said tennis was actually leading the way in promoting women's sport alongside men's.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, pictured here after the final of the 2017 Shanghai Masters.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal both support the idea. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

“It is really a no-brainer and actually, we are lucky to be at the forefront in that regard,” he said.

“Other sports should be looking at what we have done so far. It is really important and it is a huge opportunity because it becomes very appealing content for the broadcasters.”

The governance of tennis has been an issue for many years, with the fact that there are seven governing bodies often held up as one of the reasons tennis is not even more successful than it is.

The ITF sets the rules of tennis and organises the four Grand Slam events - Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open, while the WTA runs the women's tour and the ATP runs the men's.

Australia’s Rennae Stubbs and two-time women's grand slam champion Simona Halep also said they were behind the idea.

However Nick Kyrgios didn’t exactly offer a glowing endorsement.

with AAP