A few days ago Roger Federer wrote on his Twitter account: "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?" A tweet on the possible union of ATP and WTA in one big Tour.
"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" and more: "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 2 weakened bodies or 1 stronger body. " His first tweet got nearly 50,000 likes, 5,000 retweets and around 1,500 comments. Almost all of them were favorable, starting with his colleague and rival Rafael Nadal, who made it clear that there had already been discussions between the two regarding this topic.
The reactions have been positive by almost all WTA players. Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Alize Cornet and others have enthusiastically welcomed the idea. Serena Williams instead expressed some doubts, not about the idea, but on the mode of communication.
The American published a tweet in which she claimed that the information was confidential, and therefore should not be shared. Vasek Pospisil, one of the most active members of the player council, said: "Excellent idea: the ATP has been working on it since January, since they anticipated this possible vision," as if to say: "Hey, nothing new!" A player who is opposed to the idea is (of course) Nick Kyrgios.
He replied to the Federer's post with a laconic yes, suggesting that the Swiss was the only one in favor of the merger. Then he said: "Did anyone ask the majority of the ATP what they think about merging with the WTA and how it is good for us?" The following day, also on Twitter, the Australian said: "We shouldn't merge."
Kyrgios would seem to express a rather widespread idea among men: in the ATP Tour, there would seem to be the vague feeling that women take advantage of the pulling of men to gain visibility and earnings. It has long been questioned how much crowd and how much media coverage a women's Slam would have.
But in this speech the context on the equality of the prize-money must be inserted: after decades of battle, women will get it in the Slams. Many disagree, underlining the biggest takings generated by the men's tour, but I believe that the choice of having a prize-money of the same size is right and legitimate.
The health emergency has changed priorities, but why did someone like Roger Federer choose to expose himself only in April 2020? Couldn't he have done it 5, 10, 15 years ago? Of course, a merger would certainly be good for women's tennis, but what benefits would it bring to men's tennis? I agree with Federer: combining the two Tours would mean simplifying the product in general, from many points of view.
There would be a common schedule, perhaps lighter and simpler, which would lead to enormous organizational advantages. Then the modalities can be discussed with various proposals. Roger Federer and Nick Kyrgios are now the standard-bearers of a debate that will accompany the coming months: until there are tournaments, all the parties involved will have time to discuss, propose and clarify.