Roger Federer's idea of ATP-WTA merger finds support from Johanna Konta

  • Johanna Konta feels Roger Federer's merger suggestion is logical, but will take a lot of effort to bring to life.
  • Billie Jean King has been rooting for a combined tour since the 1970s, as Konta pointed out.
Modified 20 May 2020, 15:18 IST

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

Roger Federer has 12.7 million followers on Twitter. Suffice to say, when he makes a suggestion about the future of tennis on the social networking site (or anywhere in general), he is bound to get people talking.

The Swiss maestro's surprise call last month for a unified tour featuring both men and women players is still gathering traction. And the latest to back the 20-time Slam champion's suggestion is current British No. 1 Johanna Konta.

Roger Federer came up with this idea when the coronavirus-enforced lockdown was at its most stringent. A lot of lower-ranked players have been worried about their income at a time when the tours a suspended, and according to Roger Federer, a merger could help everyone tide over such crises more efficiently.

Konta expressed cautious optimism for the plan while still recognizing it as an idea that has been floating around since the 1970s. The Brit reminded everyone that it was Billie Jean King, the women's tennis legend and equal rights proponent, who first suggested it way back when.

“Billie Jean King beat him [Federer] to that a long time ago,” Konta said in a recent interview. “So I think it is something that has been talked about for a long time but having Roger vocalise it drew attention to it".

Billie Jean King.
Billie Jean King.

It would have to be a merger of equals: Konta on Roger Federer's proposal

ATP and WTA chiefs, Andrea Gaudenzi and Steve Simon respectively, have supported Roger Federer's proposal in theory. But there is still a long way to go for Roger Federer's dream to come to fruition, as Konta eloquently brought to light in the interview.

"I also know there are a lot of moving parts to it, and I know there will be a lot of people who won’t want it to happen, but also a lot of people who do want it to happen," Konta said.

A huge issue could be the desire for pay parity that women players feel they deserve. Indeed, Konta believes the union can only happen if there is a 'merger of equals'. That could be the potential spanner in the works of what is a revolutionary concept for the game.

"For me, for my comprehension, I don’t understand how it wouldn’t be of equals because if we are then talking about that, would it be us literally saying we are worth less than our male counterparts?" Konta questioned. "It would have to be a merger of equals because that’s what we are. I wouldn’t see how, right now in today’s age, it would be allowed to be called anything else."

But while Steve Simon has thrown his weight behind Roger's Federer's suggestion, he believes pay-parity is a long-term goal that is not practically feasible right away.

Battle of the sexes redux?

Could King's dream of more recognition for the women's game be realized if Roger Federer's proposal sees the light of day and the tours are combined? Could men and women be seen on the same footing everywhere, with fans getting to watch them together at all events?

Some fear the usual complaints could come up again if the proposal does move forward - most particularly the question of best-of-five sets vs best-of-three. But since the ATP and WTA tours are not involved with the running of the Slams - the only events where the men play best-of-five sets - this might not be such a big issue.

A joint tour could work wonders in adding to the accessibility and popularity of the game for both fans and players, and also in streamlining the ATP and WTA tournament calendar. Time will tell if the obvious impediments to Roger Federer's proposed scheme can be overcome and the idea can be brought to fruition.

Published 20 May 2020, 15:18 IST
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