However, while the combination of the different classification systems, timetables and rules of ATP and WTA is superficially attractive, considerable political obstacles remain. Existing hierarchies will take a bit of persuasion to vote out of office, to begin with, regardless of passing comments from a universally admired game legend who has won 20 majors and whose opinion probably carries more weight than that from any other player.
Federer asked his Twitter followers for 12.7 million Wednesday: “I wonder, am I the only one who thinks that the time has come for men and women to come together and come together? “
There was instant support from Nick Kyrgios. “Yes,” was the quick and simple answer from the Australian, who is close to Federer. Judy Murray has reposted a hashtag #strongertogether in apparent endorsement of Federer’s remarks.
Federer added: “I imagine a merger between the WTA and ATP. I’m not talking about merging the competition on the ground, but about merging the two governing bodies (ATP and WTA) which oversee the professional tours of men and women. It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is the time. These are tough times in all sports and we can get away with two weakened bodies or one stronger body. “
He responded to a follower who complained that having two strands of governance was confusing and unnecessary. ” I agree with you. It’s too confusing for fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different categories of tournaments. “
The Association of Tennis Professionals, established in 1972 to represent the interests of male players after the upheaval that followed the arrival of the Open era, has its world headquarters in London and has evolved into a difficult alliance of directors of tournaments and players’ council. , led by the world n ° 1, Novak Djokovic. The Women’s Tennis Association, inspired by the pioneering work of Billie Jean King and eight other active players, was born a year later, with its headquarters in Florida. It governs a sport with players in more than 100 countries competing for $ 146 million (£ 118 million) in prizes, and is tied for the men’s circuit in Grand Slam tournaments.
Merging is an idea that has been raised before but was not seriously discussed recently by either of the two organizations until the coronavirus crisis began. Last week, the new ATP CEO, Andrea Gaudenzi, withdrew from his deal with the combined administrative capacity of the two organizations, but agreed that closer cooperation was a good idea. “It is extremely important and I think it is one of our biggest advantages over our competitors,” he said. “Not only do we have a great product for women, but our audience is also fairly divided between women and men. “
Gaudenzi, who has reached the 18th world ranking in his career, said that the game was most marketable when there were male and female events in the same tournament. “A combined event, I firmly believe, is a better event both on site and [through the] media. It’s just great. The variety is great. Our fans love both. We have strong combined tournaments in ATP and WTA and Grand Slam tournaments are combined.
“It is really obvious and in fact, we are fortunate to be at the forefront in this regard. Other sports should look at what we have done so far. This is really important and it is a huge opportunity as it becomes very attractive content for broadcasters. “
Federer, however, wants the game to go further: he speaks the unsaid. Even Chris Kermode, one of ATP’s most innovative leaders, who was succeeded by Gaudenzi in January, has not explored the possibilities of a merger. It is not the first time that the subject has been raised. In 2005, WTA CEO at the time, Larry Scott, was in favor, but he said that if that happened, it would not be the result of a “big bang,” like John McEnroe and Andrea Agassi. proposed it at the time.
Scott, who had been No. 2 at ATP, revealed that outgoing ATP president Mark Miles asked him if he wanted the men’s work. He refused, but said, “I told him I would be interested in putting the tours together. I think it would be a big step for the sport, whether as a joint venture or a complete merger. “
That did not happen at the time and, as a senior insider said on Wednesday, “It is not going to happen now. Far too much politics. “
Andy Murray, meanwhile, says he’s unsure whether a short period of illness that forced him to isolate himself last month was Covid-19. “I was a little sick for two or three days about four weeks ago,” he told CNN on Wednesday.
“So before the quarantine started, I was in solitary confinement for probably four or five days. Most of the people I have talked to have had symptoms and felt a little sick. But it is unclear whether you actually got the virus or not. Obviously, the test should be saved for people who are in serious situations and the front line workers of the NHS in this country. “
Murray, still working on his physical condition after being sidelined five months ago, is pessimistic about the early return of the game. “Let’s say things have improved in Europe, but there are some countries that could still have problems… in South America, for example, and France did not allow flights from South America or certain countries, ”he said. “Then you have a tournament, basically, where people or players from a certain continent or country are not allowed to participate in the competition.
“I think the tournament is losing. We should have the impression that the whole world is functioning normally and traveling normally again before tennis returns, especially the big competitions. “