In April 2020, just after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roger Federer floated the idea of merging the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis, respectively. Billie Jean King founded the WTA in 1973 after failing to persuade the men to create a joint venture. Nearly five decades on, the idea to project tennis’s progressive face, of men and women competing together and as equals, and thereby creating a big enough product that is financially self-sufficient, is taking shape again. It doesn’t necessarily mean a merger of the two competitions, but of the calendar, governance structures, decision-making, sponsorships, etc. A year ago, investment group CVC Capital Partners, a private equity company which has bought stakes in Spanish football’s LaLiga and has a presence in the IPL with the Gujarat Titans, had floated a potential $600m agreement at turning the tours into a single commercial entity. As if on cue, on Tuesday, The Times (London) reported that CVC had struck a deal with the WTA for a 20% stake (about $150 million). There are expectations of a similar agreement with the ATP.
Here we discuss various facets of the potential merger.
Guests: Ankita Bhambri, a former tennis player and most recently the coach of the Indian Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup) team; Sunder Iyer, secretary of the Maharashtra Lawn Tennis Association, which has hosted both ATP and WTA tournaments
Host: N. Sudarshan