23 April 2020

Should the men's and women's game merge? Thinking through the post-Covid future of tennis.

Roger Federer has been using the Coronavirus lockdown to do some thinking. This week he surprised the tennis community with a big idea that could change pro tennis forever. What do you think of his proposal and how well do you think tennis is placed to emerge from the crisis?

Federer's Big idea

Roger Federer took to Twitter to kick start a debate on the future organsiation of the Pro Tour by merging the men's and women's governing bodies. He suggests:

  • Merge ranking systems, logos, websites, tournament categories and governance to make it less confusing for fans whose gender split is roughly even
  • All sports are facing a tough time now and post-pandemic, one strong governing body would be better than two weaker ones.
  • Men and women would still play their own gender only. This is not about men and women playing each other!

Perhaps it is no surprise that tennis greatest player of all time (arguably, if you must), a self-professed historian of the game, and an innovator who brought us the Laver Cup should be the one to seize the opportunity of the pandemic crisis to imagine a new future for tennis. 

Federer's idea, announced in a series of tweets, is to merge the ATP and the WTA, the organisations that separately represent the men and women on the pro tennis tour. Rafa Nadal immediately confirmed his support, "I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men's and women's tennis in only one organisation."  

World number one Simona Halep also lent her support while, somewhat mysteriously, Serena Williams indicated in a tweet subsequently deleted that it was an idea "that was not meant to be shared yet"! Crucially, Billie Jean King, the WTA founder declared it's what she wanted all along: "'I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis."

On the face of it, Federer's idea  may not seem that radical, but the timing of the proposal gives it huge significance. When it has been discussed before, merging the Tours has been seen as a move to administrative efficiency that could unlock marketing clout and heal long-term rifts between the men's and women's game. But now, in a post-covid-19 world, it could be essential to the short-term financial health of the game and the building of a platform secure enough to face an even bigger threat to tennis - climate change.

Or is that an over-reaction? 

Tell us what you think about the idea of combining the men's and women's tour, and help us take a snap-shot assessment of the state tennis in this time of crisis.

You may submit this form anonymously, but if you are happy for us to contact you to follow up your ideas, please leave your name and email address.
Roger Federer floated the idea of merging the organisations that represent the men and women on the Tour and manage many of the events. His suggestion is NOT that men should play women, but that the game should be administered and marketed by one body. Do you agree?
Let us know why you might being playing less... For instance, have you taken up a different activity, like running, will you be too busy with work, or have you simply fallen out of love with tennis!
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Roger Federer has told us his big idea, what one or two things would you change in tennis? It could be an idea for the pro game or for the tennis you play!