Perhaps, no sport in the world has as diverse a field of stars as tennis. While the male tennis players get paid more than the female players, some argue that Serena Williams is still the biggest name in tennis around the world. Roger Federer noticed this, and he has an idea about how to embrace the coed nature of the sport. The concept was met with praise, criticism, and silence — depending on who was asked.
A brief history of the ATP and WTA
According to The Guardian, the ATP was formed in 1972 as a men’s only tennis league. It was meant to unify the world of tennis by giving its greatest player a single governing body where all the best could compete. For nearly 50 years since the ATP has seen the rise of every men’s superstar to make it to the top of the tennis world.
The WTA, inspired by Billie Jean King and her creation of an independent league with other female tennis stars, came just one year later. Like the ATP, the WTA has been the governing body of women’s tennis since then. It’s shared the stage with the ATP while hosting sporadic events on its own every year.
Both have been wildly successful in their own rights. But by merging the two entities the company could thrive with its ability to boast not only Federers, Nadals, and Djokovics, but the Williams, Gauffs, and Osakas, too.
Roger Federer’s idea
As many across the sports world are dwelling on a present without sports, Federer is looking toward the future. Recently, Federer picked the brains of nearly 13 million fans via Twitter as he mused about a more inclusive future for tennis. Although the two work together, the men’s ATP and the women’s WTA are separate entities. Federer wants to change that.
He tweeted out a question to his fans: “I am picturing a merger between the WTA and ATP. I am not talking about merging competition on the court but merging the two governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours. 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 two weakened bodies or one stronger body.”
Federer raises some legitimate questions about the current state of tennis. Guiding the ATP and WTA’s methodology on separate websites, ranking using different criteria, and acting as different governing bodies while they work so closely together complicates things. Several other tennis players responded.
Tennis players respond
Women’s tennis players, from Billie Jean King to Simona Halep, voiced their support for Federer’s concept. The men’s side wasn’t quite as eager. Mercurial tennis presence Nick Kyrgios appeared to take issue with the idea. He asked Federer if he’s considered what other ATP athletes would think of such a large merger.
Historically, the ATP has been the men’s division of tennis. But the WTA has become increasingly merged with its actions. While several women have made names for themselves, there is still a large disparity in terms of pay and exposure.
Others, like Novak Djokovic, have not commented on the matter. Potentially, a merger could be a sticking point for players who like existing on their own. Of course, with any issue regarding the future of women’s tennis, Serena Williams should contribute her thoughts.
According to CodeList, Williams implied that Nadal’s tweets referred to some behind-the-scenes things not meant to be public yet. In a deleted tweet, Williams replied, “Um, that was confidential and should not be shared …”
She did not elaborate too much, but it was clear that there’s something behind the speculation of a merger. More may come out in the ensuing months. But it seems like something is going on in the tennis world that could shake things up for the better.