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"Roger Federer always looks at the bigger picture" - WTA CEO on ATP-WTA merger idea

Frances Tiafoe , Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic at the 2019 Hopman Cup
Frances Tiafoe , Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Belinda Bencic at the 2019 Hopman Cup
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 05 Dec 2020
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WTA CEO Steve Simon believes that Roger Federer's call for the merger of the ATP & WTA tours is in the long-term interest of the sport.

Back in April, Roger Federer had sent the tennis world into a tizzy with a tweet suggesting that the men's and women's organizing bodies merge into one entity. Although the idea has been around for many years, the Swiss' post brought it to the fore once again - especially since it came just weeks after the tour shut-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While there has been no progress on the merger front, the two tours have worked very closely over the past few months on several issues. The latest example of that is the WTA's decision to designate their tournament categories on the same lines as the ATP tour.

In a recent interaction with Tennis Majors, Steve Simon confirmed that a lot of WTA players are in agreement with Roger Federer's idea since it looks at the sport from a macro lens.

“Well, knowing Roger Federer, it’s not a surprise to me because I think Roger Federer always looks at the bigger picture of things," Simon said. "I can share that we have athletes that would feel the same way. If you talked to Serena (Williams) or Venus (Williams) or any of them, you would hear some similar comments and our Player Council would love to see us working together, too."
"There’s obviously challenges and a lot of business issues that make it challenging at times to get it across," he added. "But I think the more that we do it and the more we keep pushing that direction, it clearly is the right thing to do."
Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Simon also claimed he was not aware that Roger Federer was going to send out the tweet, before adding that it did help bring the issue back into the spotlight.

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"It (the idea of a merger) is something that we’ve talked about many, many times. I think no one was ready for it (Roger Federer's tweet) or expecting it at the time. But it shows that Roger Federer does think independently and on his own, which I think we all respect. And, you know, it created conversation. I think that’s the best way that you can describe it and where it went."

 We haven’t had any interaction with the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA): Steve Simon

WTA CEO Steve Simon at the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen
WTA CEO Steve Simon at the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen

The Professional Tennis Players Association, an initiative led by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, has been opposed by some players (including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal). But Djokovic and Pospisil have stated they have spoken to some of the women players, and that they will be included in the asosciation with time.

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When asked about the PTPA, Steve Simon replied that the WTA has not had any direct interaction with the Djokovic-led group so far. He did mention, however, that it is up to the players to decide whether they want to be part of the association.

“We haven’t had much interaction – we haven’t had any with the PTPA, that’s been a men’s-driven initiative," Simon said. "I know they’ve spoken to many of our players and we certainly haven’t gotten in the way of anybody speaking to anybody. That’s fine. We have just focused on what we do and we have worked very, very hard. I think it really came out in 2020 that the players on our side believe that we do have good communication with them and that their voice is heard."

Simon also stressed that the WTA does everything in its power to keep the players happy, and that they have healthy communication with everyone on the important matters.

"Doesn’t mean they’re all happy, of course. We have tournaments that’ll be happy and unhappy, players that’ll be happy and unhappy. But I think overall they do believe that we do have a good lines of communication with them and that their voice is heard. If they make a decision to join the PTPA and do that, we will deal with that, as we need to, when and if that comes. But that’s upon them. Those are their decisions to make," Simon added.
Published 05 Dec 2020, 15:55 IST
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