Women and men have always run different ways in tennis, and despite all efforts, this has changed very little until today. The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is still fighting for recognition.
Billie Jean King was the one fighting for the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association WTA in 1973. The players that comprised the WTA were Nancy Richey, Julie Heldman, Rosie Casals, Kerry Melville Reid, Valerie Ziegenfuss, Kristy Pigeon, Judy Dalton, Peaches Bartkowicz and of course Billie Jean King. Since then, a few things have changed. The prize money for tournaments increased from $100,000 back in 1972 to $14 million for the finals. Also, more than 2,400 players from almost 100 countries competing against each other.
Billie Jean King fought for a joint tennis organisation connecting men and women for a long time, but she was unable to find much support, until now. She said once, “They (the ATP) still don’t want us. But one day – I don’t know if I’ll live to see it – they’ll realise that it would have been better to work together from the beginning“.
Until then, the only way forward for women has been to look themselves after their professional and sporting prospects. With having two separate tennis organisations for women and men, certain organisational things are more complicated than they really have to be. The presence of two additional organisations, the ITF (International Tennis Federation) the Grand Slam tournament, does not make things easier. But now with the pandemic and many tournaments being suspended, there might be a chance that the total number of four could be reduced to three. Several players suggested a consolidation of the WTA and ATP.
The tennis sport is in a crisis with many tournaments being cancelled. Getting out of the crisis as a joint force might be more successful than keeping the men and women tennis organisation separated. Roger Federer started the debate on a possible ATP and WTA merger in a social media post. More tennis aces, like Billie Jean King, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray supported the idea. Active players such as Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Petra Kvitová also praised the plan of a merger.
Federer thinks that a merger of the two associations will allow tennis to emerge stronger as a sport from the current corona crisis. He asked on social media, “Am I the only one who wonders if now is not the time for men’s and women’s tennis to join forces?” It would be very confusing for the fans “if there were different world ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories“. From these difficult times for the sport, he said, tennis could either emerge “with two weakened federations or one strong one”.
The WTA chief Steve Simon expressed his support on the merger of the WTA and ATP in an interview with the New York Times. He emphasised that he was not concerned with the financial consequences of the corona crisis but doing something good from an economic point of view and bring sport together seems like an excellent approach to him.
The discussion goes into the right direction and we hope that once tennis matches resume again, the talks on the merger will keep on going and that not too far away from today women and men tennis will be not separated any more.