‘Merge tennis’ governing bodies,’ says Roger Federer

Roger Federer has won eight Wimbledon titles

Roger Federer says “now is the time” for the men’s and women’s governing bodies to merge while tennis is in limbo because of the coronavirus.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion floated the idea in a series of Twitter posts.

He said a merger of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the men’s Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) “probably should have happened”.

“We can come out of this with two weakened bodies or one stronger body,” Federer said.

Last year WTA president Micky Lawler said it should be seriously discussed.

BBC Sport understands preliminary discussions have taken place between the two tours about greater collaboration in certain areas.

In a series of social media posts on Wednesday, Federer added: “I am not talking about merging competition on the court but merging the two governing bodies that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours.

“It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories.”

American tennis legend Billie Jean King, one of the prime movers behind the founding of the WTA, said a merger “has long been my vision for tennis”.

“The WTA on its own was always Plan B,” added King. “I’m glad we are on the same page. Let’s make it happen.”

Spanish 19-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal added: “It would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men’s and women’s tennis in only one organisation.”

Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Argentine Diego Schwartzman and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza are among the other high-profile tennis players to voice their agreement on social media.

All tennis has been abandoned until at least 13 July, with Wimbledon cancelling its grass court tournament for the first time since World War Two because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It followed the postponement of the French Open, which was due to begin in May but has been rescheduled to take place in Paris from 20 September to 4 October.

Last week ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said he thought the two tours working more closely together is “a no-brainer”, although he did not directly discuss the possibility of a merger.

The ATP and WTA have been approached for comment by BBC Sport.

Analysis

Russell Fuller, BBC Sport tennis correspondent

With all sports facing up to an alarming financial future, one strengthened and unified governing body certainly has a ring of appeal.

There would also be marketing and scheduling advantages.

They wouldn’t need to change the net to change the logo between matches at combined events, for example. And maybe all televised tennis would be found in the same place, and no longer require several subscriptions to access.

Women could gain financially as most of their standalone events have lower prize funds, but how would men react to the potential dilution of their income and a brand, which for the moment, is significantly stronger?

How likely is a merger to happen? Very unlikely in the short term, but not impossible in the longer term – although perhaps only in certain mutually beneficial areas.

I understand preliminary discussions have taken place – which, in itself, is a sign of the sport’s new found spirit of co-operation in the age of Covid-19.

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