Another Tennis Leader Supports Idea of Merging Women’s and Men’s Tours

Written by on May 5, 2020

After leaders of the boys’s tennis tour, together with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, stated they wished to discover a merger with the ladies’s circuit, the pinnacle of the Girls’s Tennis Affiliation has made it clear that the sensation is mutual.

“I’m not afraid of the complete merger; I by no means have been,” Steve Simon, the chief government of the WTA, stated by phone on Monday in his first in depth feedback on the ATP’s curiosity. “I would definitely be the primary to assist it, as a result of I believe you then actually have the enterprise and the strategic rules all aligned, which is what you must do. Clearly it’s an extended and winding highway to get there, however I believe it makes all of the sense on the planet.”

Nonetheless, the excursions, which have operated independently for the reason that WTA was based in 1973, at the moment are in an unprecedented place. By no means earlier than have each tour chiefs and the largest stars within the males’s sport publicly supported contemplating such a merger.

“Nope, which is why it by no means occurred,” stated Martina Navratilova, a 59-time Grand Slam champion, in a textual content message on Monday. “Good to see the unity for a change.”

Navratilova stated she had lengthy supported a merger, as has the WTA founder Billie Jean King.

“However the ATP by no means stepped up,” Navratilova stated. “It ought to occur, and possibly Covid-19 will make it occur sooner relatively than later.”

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the skilled tennis excursions since mid-March. Wimbledon was canceled, and scores of different occasions have been postponed by way of no less than July 12.

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Each excursions have needed to reduce costs significantly. The ATP has furloughed or lowered hours for about one-third of its 100-plus workers, and the WTA, based on Simon, is reducing government pay.

Simon stated {that a} merger was not a monetary necessity for the ladies’s tour, although the ATP generates extra income and has larger reserves.

“This isn’t about attempting to avoid wasting the WTA,” he stated. “We’ll be positive, however look, if we’re going to do the appropriate enterprise factor and we’re lastly going to convey the game collectively, I believe the WTA can be very supportive of this idea.”

Simon stated tennis’s international nature would make restarting more difficult than it will be for leagues based mostly largely in a single nation or area. However like Andrea Gaudenzi, the ATP chairman, Simon stated the pandemic had created elevated dialogue amongst tennis’s divided management and a contemporary incentive to combine, one thing King advocated earlier than choosing what she referred to as Plan B in 1973.

“This can be a distinctive time,” Simon stated. “Disaster and challenges can typically present alternative as properly.”

Approval from each excursions’ boards of administrators would permit a merger to proceed, however due to present business contracts, a full unification may take years to finish.

“There’s going to be no scarcity of accountants, tax attorneys, attorneys and everyone else that’s concerned with it,” Simon stated. “It might take time, however conceptually it might not take as lengthy. For those who agree on the objective, you possibly can often get issues carried out faster.”

Some, together with the previous males’s No. 1 Andy Murray, have expressed concern that the ladies may not be handled as equals in a merger due to the ATP’s larger financial assets and bigger fan base. Within the present mannequin, there are complaints from the ladies’s tour about scheduling for present courts at some mixed occasions with the boys.

Simon stated he didn’t consider girls can be second-class residents in a merger. “It’s not an acquisition,” he stated. “This isn’t about both tour taking territory.”

A single merged tour, he stated, may construct bigger audiences and have extra business enchantment, yielding greater monetary rewards for everybody.

“Proper now we compete towards ourselves in addition to all the opposite leagues and leisure properties,” Simon stated. “We compete for followers, companions, sponsorships in addition to broadcast and knowledge, so the alignment permits you to mixture property.”

Gaudenzi, who assumed his submit in January, has backed pooling assets and even lobbied the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, the game’s most prestigious occasions, to affix forces with the excursions. The Grand Slam tournaments all function individually.

Gaudenzi has described the business worth of an alliance between the WTA and the ATP as “one plus one equals 4,” and the value of an alignment between the 2 excursions and the Grand Slam occasions as “one plus one plus 4 equals 20.”

“I like his math,” stated Simon, who additionally stated he agreed with it.

However finally, the deciding issue will most likely be whether or not at the moment’s gamers, significantly these on the ATP Tour, assist the idea. The boys have quashed merger discussions previously, and although Federer, Nadal and Murray have all expressed preliminary assist, Murray has stated he is aware of there’s actual opposition.

He informed CNN final week that some male gamers have been proof against equal prize cash, even when they bought a pay increase alongside the best way.

“Let’s say the first-round loser’s verify for the boys went from $8,000 to $10,000 and the ladies went from $6,000 to $10,000,” Murray stated. “I spoke to a few of the male gamers about that who have been sad as a result of the prize cash was equal. And I stated, ‘Effectively, would you relatively there was no enhance in any respect?’ They usually stated to me, ‘Yeah, truly.’”

“And that’s a few of the mentalities you’re working with in these discussions,” he continued, “the place somebody would relatively make much less cash so they don’t seem to be on equal footing with the feminine gamers. So there shall be some challenges.”


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