Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, had opined that the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown could be an ideal opportunity for the two governing bodies of professional tennis to come together under one roof. And although not all male players are on the same page, Federer's proposal has found resonance with fellow multiple-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
Andy Murray recalls Billie Jean King's campaign
During an online interaction with Christianne Amanpour on CNN International, Andy Murray said:
"This is something that Billie Jean has been wanting to happen for 40 to 50 years. She’s the one that really had the vision for all of this, so we need to remember that. I think it’s great if more of the male players are seeing it as a positive step for the sport."
Andy Murray has been vocal in his support for equality in the sport. The 32-year-old Scot was one of the first top male players to employ a female coach when he joined hands with Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo a few years ago.
The unique nature of tennis, as Murray says, means that the top men's and women's players often play together at the big tournaments. That is always going to be an attractive proposition for the game's sponsors and audiences alike.
During the interview with Amanpour that also featured 12-time ladies singles Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King, Andy Murray was quick to point out that King had championed the merger idea long before Federer.
King wanted women's tennis to be in the same fold as the men's about five decades ago. But when the men did not agree, she had no option but to establish the WTA as an independent entity in 1973.
The 76-year-old King was understandably ecstatic at Federer's suggestion about the merger, saying:
"I’m thrilled that Roger brought it up, because when the top male players bring something up, people listen."
Last month the ATP and the WTA jointly announced the suspension of their respective tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is unclear when live action will resume, so there is plenty of time if the officials have any restructuring in mind.
New ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi is also open to the idea of a unified body for tennis. The Italian, however, stopped short of calling for a formal merger; he said:
"Recent cooperation between governing bodies has only strengthened my belief that a unified sport is the surest way to maximise our potential and to deliver an optimal experience for fans on-site, on television and online."
WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon is also on the same page as his ATP counterpart when. He observed:
"I have long stated that we are at our best as a sport when we can work together, and the recent weeks have highlighted that fact."
During the interaction, King opined that in any attempts for a merger between ATP and WTA, the WTA should not be viewed as an 'acquisition'. Andy Murray was quick to provide a similar view point:
"When it comes to key decision makers right now in tennis, pretty much all of them are men. When these discussions happen, it’s quite important not to just see this merger through a man’s eyes and to bring more women into the decision-making positions so that everybody’s voice gets heard and everybody gets protected."
Andy Murray's last professional match on tour was a three-set win over Swiss Stan Wawrinka, in the final of the ATP 500 Vienna Open in 2019. The Miami Open this year was supposed to be Murray's first stop this season, but the tournament - along with many others - had to be cancelled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Professional tennis is not expected to resume before July, which means Andy Murray has at least two more months to get ready for action.