A proposed WTA-ATP merger is picking up steam
The GIST: After tennis brass spoke with athletes at last week’s Australian Open, a proposal for a WTA–ATP merger is picking up steam. The women’s tour is particularly receptive to the concept, which would produce a new “Premium Tour” to exist alongside the Grand Slams — and offer women athletes equal pay. Love.
The proposal: The proposed elite tour would feature around 11 to 14 combined men’s and women’s tournaments, similar to F1’s global motorsport series. Remaining WTA and ATP tournaments would form a secondary development level featuring men and women competitors outside the top 100.
- The combined tour has several goals, the biggest being to amass WTA and ATP media rights and sponsorship deals under one brand, which could generate more revenue than the tennis tours do separately. Better together.
- This could also ease the WTA’s financial stress and allow non–Grand Slam tournaments to reward women’s tennis stars with even more moolah. And with fewer annual commitments, the proposed tour would lessen the travel burden on players — a major issue in tennis.
The reactions: WTA boss Steve Simon is reportedly willing to consider the proposal, especially as it ensures equal pay and billing for women athletes throughout the entire tennis season rather than solely at Grand Slams.
- However, financial issues are at play, including whether or not the WTA opens the tour to Saudi Arabia. The Gulf nation has been targeting women’s tennis — it’s currently pursuing rights to the BJK Cup and two 1000-level events and wants to host the WTA Finals, something Simon avoided last year amid sportswashing concerns.
- Plus, the ATP is reportedly less open to the plan since it has more to lose and less to gain financially through shared media and sponsorship.
The future: Decentralization is one of tennis’ core issues, which is why WTA–ATP merger talks have been floated before. It remains to be seen if anything will change this time around, but Saudi Arabia has already proven its ability to influence mergers. Watch this space.