During the initial weeks of the pandemic, Roger Federer had called for a potential merger between the ATP and the WTA. The Swiss had expressed optimism that an act like that would help unite the sport during such unprecedented times and beyond.
Unbeknownst to the legendary Swiss, the legendary Billie Jean King had proposed such an idea way back in 1968, and then again in the 1970s. However, all such proposals repeatedly fell on deaf ears until Federer threw his weight behind the idea in April.
During a recent interview with telegraph.co.uk, Billie Jean King explained why a tweet by Roger Federer managed to make more noise than the previous proposals. The 12-time singles Grand Slam champion also said she discussed the matter with the Swiss right after he tweeted the idea.
They'll listen to you because you're a guy, and because of who you are: Billie Jean King to Roger Federer
Several tennis players and renowned personalities have endorsed Roger Federer’s suggestion to merge the ATP and the WTA. Despite just casually throwing the idea onto a social media platform (Twitter), Roger Federer found a huge number of people openly supporting him in what they perceived to be an original notion on his part.
But in reality, Billie Jean King has been fighting for this ever since the ATP and WTA were formed in the early 1970s. Having herself founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) in 1973, King knows a thing or two about players requiring the right form of representation.
Five decades down the line, the ATP and the WTA are far from being united, but King’s hopes were rejuvenated when Roger Federer - arguably the greatest of all time - came up with a similar idea. King revealed that when she spoke to Federer after his tweet, the Swiss admitted to not realizing her role in the campaign.
"He and I talked that day, actually - after he tweeted,” King said. "He said, ‘I guess I didn't realize you thought about this or wanted this a long time ago', and I said 'yeah'. I was laughing.”
That said, Billie Jean King is more than happy for Federer to take over the mantle. She pointed out that his gender and status in the tennis world make him a better candidate to go forward with the idea, as unfair as that may seem.
King bluntly put forth that a man would have more listeners than a woman - and especially more so if he’s the ‘greatest ever’.
“I said, 'They'll listen to you because you're a guy and because of who you are.' I mean Federer, come on, the greatest ever and all that,” King added. “People will listen to men a lot more than women - I don't have to like that, but it's true.”
But King also voiced some concern that the Swiss had perhaps forgotten about his proposal, and expressed hoped that he would continue to fight for it.
“I said it would be great if you would keep it going, but I think he’s let it drop," King went on. "I wish he would push it, but I don't really know what's going on behind the scenes.”Published 18 Sep 2020, 16:51 IST