Comment: Roger Federer calls for huge changes in tennis and he could lead the way

Kevin Palmer
Roger Federer press conference

Roger Federer has called for radical changes to the fabric of tennis in a series of tweets that look certain to start a debate over the future of the game as it looks to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

As the 20-time Grand Slam champion took to Twitter to call for the men’s ATP Tour to merge with women’s WTA Tour, the Swiss legend appreciated he was starting a debate that will gather in momentum given his vocal backing for change.

Federer has rarely used Twitter to make political points, but he certainly abandoned that etiquette as he called for the sport to work together to find a solution to problems that could change the face of tennis for some time to come.

“Just wondering…..am I the only one thinking that now is the time for men’s and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one?” wrote Federer.

“I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the two governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours.

“It’s too confusing for the fans when there are different ranking systems, different logos, different websites, different tournament categories.

“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.”

While Federer’s sentiments will strike a chord with many tennis fans, his proposals are certain to attract plenty of opposition from the game’s authorities at a time when political in-fighting in tennis has come to the surface once again.

The ATP Tour and the WTA Tour have some events where both are staged at the same venue, yet there remains a competitive element between the two branches of tennis as they arrange their own broadcasting deals and sponsorship packages.

The leading figures running the ATP Tour and the WTA Tour may be reluctant to dilute their own influence by considering the kind of merger Federer is prosing, yet there has to be some merit in his suggestion at a time when tennis is facing up to its biggest crisis in the Open Era.

With Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II and the US Open expressing doubts that their event will go ahead in New York this year, there is a real prospect of the entire tennis calendar for 2020 being cancelled as nations around the world look to come out of lockdown measures aimed to stem the spread of Covid-19.

The sport may not return as we knew it just a few months ago as many national associations and tournaments will struggle to stay afloat in the months and years that will follow, so a united tennis family returning with a new look and a vibrant image could provide all parties with a chance to start again in a new world.

While Federer did not suggest any form of breakaway tour may be in his mind, someone of his gravitas could look to bring tennis together if the ATP and WTA Tours are not prepared to consider a closer working relationship.

What Federer’s intervention has done is remind those in positions of power in the game that the real influencer could take over their show if unity is not part of the agenda as tennis looks to plot a path forward.

Follow Kevin Palmer on Twitter @RealKevinPalmer

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