Roger Federer
These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with two weakened bodies or one stronger body, Roger Federer says. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Roger Federer’s plea for tennis equality has started to gain a lot of momentum with many star players, past and present, supporting the merger of the men and women’s governing bodies – the WTA and the ATP.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who is recovering from knee surgery while sports has taken a backseat due to the coronavirus pandemic, expressed his opinion in a string of posts on social media via his Twitter account late on Wednesday.

“Am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one?” Federer questioned, sparking a flurry of responses from the fraternity.

Rafael Nadal

The idea proposed by Federer, and others before him – former WTA chief executive Anne Worcester among these - would be to combine the two into a single body that deals with both men and women. “I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the two governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men and women’s professional Tours,” the Swiss ace suggested in his post.

Federer’s social media posts were met with plenty of enthusiastic replies, including from Rafael Nadal and Australian star Nick Kyrgios along with two of the top women players, namely former world numbers ones Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza.

“As you know per our discussions, I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men and women’s tennis in one only organization,” Nadal responded.

Billie Jean King, the American great who founded the WTA and tried unsuccessfully to unite the men’s and women’s tours during that decade, endorsed the idea. The professional era in tennis started in 1968, with the ATP being founded in 1972 followed by the start of the WTA in 1973.

Billie Jean King

“I agree and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together, has long been my vision for tennis,” King tweeted in reply to Federer’s string of suggestions.

“The WTA, on its own, was always Plan B. I’m glad we are on the same page. Let’s make it happen,” the legend added.

The 38-year-old Federer, however, emphasised he was “not talking about merging competition on the court” but rather a merger of the two governing bodies for the sport. There has never been a united tennis Tour, but male and female players do play at the same tournaments several times each year, including at the four Grand Slam tournaments.

“It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories,” Federer explained to a fan.

Tennis, and other sport, have shut down all over the world with Wimbledon being among the first events to be cancelled for the first time since World War II while the French Open has been pushed back not until the end of September.

“It probably should have happened a long time ago, but maybe now is really the time. These are tough times in every sport and we can come out of this with two weakened bodies or one stronger body,” Federer argued.