The WTA and ATP discuss a possible merger
The GIST: It’s official — the WTA and ATP have a date to discuss a possible merger. Later this month, executives from both pro tennis leagues will meet in London for a two-day summit about the possibility of a united tour. It’s giving The Office.
The details: The idea of a WTA–ATP merger is nothing new — and according to Billie Jean King, it's been on her mind since the 1970s. Although notable tennis stars like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have supported it on the basis of envisioned gender equity, the current move seems to be a direct response to Saudi interest in tennis and Novak Djokovic's PTPA.
The critiques: Not everyone supports the merger, however. Men's players may be reluctant to join forces because it could mean a redistribution of wealth: outside of Grand Slams, ATP members earn about 75% more than their WTA counterparts. Other arguments are downright sexist, including remarks about the draws being merged from the ever-controversial Nick Kyrgios.
- Tennis is also a fundamentally fragmented sport, and unifying the WTA and ATP creates key logistical obstacles. Both tours have separate commercial partners, television deals, and data rights allocations, all which would need to be renegotiated under one organization.
The importance: We've seen what mergers can do for competing leagues, but we haven't seen a collaboration between men's and women's organizations that centers discussions about pay equity. A joint WTA–ATP tour could provide a blueprint for future mergers in other sports, especially basketball, hockey, or soccer.
- Plus, a more streamlined and cohesive strategy could mean more interest and investment in tennis as a whole. As women’s finals at the US Open draw more viewers than the men’s and the celebrity of Coco Gauff and other rising stars grows, merging with the WTA might increasingly become a no-brainer for the men’s tour. Work smarter, not harder.