One other Tennis Chief Helps Concept of Merging Girls’s and Males’s Excursions

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After leaders of the lads’s tennis tour, together with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, mentioned they needed to discover a merger with the ladies’s circuit, the top of the Girls’s Tennis Affiliation has made it clear that the sensation is mutual.

“I’m not afraid of the total merger; I by no means have been,” Steve Simon, the chief govt of the WTA, mentioned by phone on Monday in his first in depth feedback on the ATP’s curiosity. “I would definitely be the primary to assist it, as a result of I feel you then actually have the enterprise and the strategic ideas all aligned, which is what it’s good to do. Clearly it’s an extended and winding highway to get there, however I feel it makes all of the sense on this planet.”

Nonetheless, the excursions, which have operated independently because the WTA was based in 1973, are actually in an unprecedented place. By no means earlier than have each tour chiefs and the most important stars within the males’s sport publicly supported contemplating such a merger.

“Nope, which is why it by no means occurred,” mentioned Martina Navratilova, a 59-time Grand Slam champion, in a textual content message on Monday. “Good to see the unity for a change.”

Navratilova mentioned she had lengthy supported a merger, as has the WTA founder Billie Jean King.

“However the ATP by no means stepped up,” Navratilova mentioned. “It ought to occur, and perhaps Covid-19 will make it occur sooner somewhat than later.”

The coronavirus pandemic has shut down the skilled tennis excursions since mid-March. Wimbledon was canceled, and scores of different occasions have been postponed by means of at the least July 12.

Each excursions have needed to cut back prices considerably. The ATP has furloughed or lowered hours for about one-third of its 100-plus staff, and the WTA, in response to Simon, is slicing govt pay.

Simon mentioned {that a} merger was not a monetary necessity for the ladies’s tour, although the ATP generates extra income and has higher reserves.

“This isn’t about attempting to save lots of the WTA,” he mentioned. “We’ll be fantastic, however look, if we’re going to do the correct enterprise factor and we’re lastly going to carry the game collectively, I feel the WTA can be very supportive of this idea.”

Simon mentioned tennis’s international nature would make restarting more difficult than it could be for leagues primarily based largely in a single nation or area. However like Andrea Gaudenzi, the ATP chairman, Simon mentioned the pandemic had created elevated dialogue amongst tennis’s divided management and a recent incentive to combine, one thing King advocated earlier than choosing what she referred to as Plan B in 1973.

“It is a distinctive time,” Simon mentioned. “Disaster and challenges can typically present alternative as nicely.”

Approval from each excursions’ boards of administrators would enable a merger to proceed, however due to present business contracts, a full unification might take years to finish.

“There’s going to be no scarcity of accountants, tax attorneys, attorneys and all people else that’s concerned with it,” Simon mentioned. “It could take time, however conceptually it could not take as lengthy. For those who agree on the objective, you’ll be able to often get issues finished faster.”

Some, together with the previous males’s No. 1 Andy Murray, have expressed concern that the ladies won’t be handled as equals in a merger due to the ATP’s higher financial assets and bigger fan base. Within the present mannequin, there are complaints from the ladies’s tour about scheduling for present courts at some mixed occasions with the lads.

Simon mentioned he didn’t imagine girls can be second-class residents in a merger. “It’s not an acquisition,” he mentioned. “This isn’t about both tour taking territory.”

A single merged tour, he mentioned, might construct bigger audiences and have extra business enchantment, yielding greater monetary rewards for everybody.

“Proper now we compete towards ourselves in addition to all the opposite leagues and leisure properties,” Simon mentioned. “We compete for followers, companions, sponsorships in addition to broadcast and knowledge, so the alignment means that you can combination property.”

Gaudenzi, who assumed his put up in January, has backed pooling assets and even lobbied the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, the game’s most prestigious occasions, to affix forces with the excursions. The Grand Slam tournaments all function individually.

Gaudenzi has described the business worth of an alliance between the WTA and the ATP as “one plus one equals 4,” and the value of an alignment between the 2 excursions and the Grand Slam occasions as “one plus one plus 4 equals 20.”

“I like his math,” mentioned Simon, who additionally mentioned he agreed with it.

However finally, the deciding issue will most likely be whether or not immediately’s gamers, notably these on the ATP Tour, assist the idea. The boys have quashed merger discussions up to now, and although Federer, Nadal and Murray have all expressed preliminary assist, Murray has mentioned he is aware of there may be actual opposition.

He advised CNN final week that some male gamers have been immune to equal prize cash, even when they received a pay increase alongside the way in which.

“Let’s say the first-round loser’s test for the lads went from $8,000 to $10,000 and the ladies went from $6,000 to $10,000,” Murray mentioned. “I spoke to a number of the male gamers about that who have been sad as a result of the prize cash was equal. And I mentioned, ‘Nicely, would you somewhat there was no improve in any respect?’ They usually mentioned to me, ‘Yeah, really.’”

“And that’s a number of the mentalities you’re working with in these discussions,” he continued, “the place somebody would somewhat make much less cash so they don’t seem to be on equal footing with the feminine gamers. So there can be some challenges.”

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