Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios has never been shy of letting the world know what he thinks about an idea. And now he has come out firmly against a proposal, floated last week by Roger Federer, that the governing bodies for men and women’s tennis, the ATP and the WTA, should merge.
Currently, the two bodies co-exist alongside each other, organising their own tournaments and events, and responsible for the governance of the sport in their own jurisdictions. However, the multi-Grand Slam winner, last week, proposed that the interlude occasioned by the suspension of the sport because of the Covid-19 pandemic, provided an opportunity to consider how the good could be restructured in the future.
The idea is by no means new, but Federer’s comments appear to have given the proposal fresh impetus, with several leading figures in tennis indicating their support. Andrea Guandenzi, the chairman of the ATP, has conceded that such a merger would help optimise the fan experience, whether in the stadium, watching on TV or following online, whilst his counterpart at the ATA, Steve Simon, has indicated the willingness of his organisation to collaborate more closely with the ATP in future.
Rafael Nadal has endorsed Federer’s comments, whilst Billie-Jean King, the American tennis legend, has said that a merger accorded with her long-term vision for the sport.
But Kyrgios has poured some cold water on the idea, arguing that Federer should have consulted with his fellow ATP professionals first before suggesting it.
Many I the ATP oppose the idea on the grounds of money. If the two tours merged, then the prize money – traditionally higher for male rather than female events – would have to be adjusted. It would either increase – and in a post COVID-19 world that must be regarded as highly unlikely – or the amount on offer to the men would be reduced.
At a time when the issue of the amount of money on offer to tennis players outside the top 100 has been highlighted as never before, that is something most men would not be prepared to accept.
There are also fears from some women that merging events would see their exposure reduced, with their higher profile male counterparts getting the lion’s share of attention.
Meanwhile, setting aside these issues there are also some practical obstacles to be overcome, such as the different sponsorship and broadcasts deals which the two organisations have in place, and the different cultures of the two governing bodies.