The first week of the US Open won’t be remembered for the tennis on display but rather for the week-long meetings in New York between officials of both the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association that were concerned with hurriedly finalising a game-changing merger between both tours.
Djokovic to make history before profound change
Of course, the focus may shift back to the action on the Arthur Ashe court given that the latest betting odds for US Open tennis list Novak Djokovic at just 4/6 to win the event.
Should the Serb be able to go all the way at Flushing Meadows, with the latest tennis betting tips suggesting that he will, then Djokovic will have recorded his 24th Grand Slam win. It will be an achievement that means the 36-year-old may have an unassailable lead in the quest to win the most slams in the men’s game.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) June 11, 2023
Undoubtedly, it will be a moment in tennis history to savour but soon after the US Open ends, the attention will turn once more to the future of the professional game and whether a deal can be struck between the ATP and WTA. Further meetings are scheduled to take place at a summit in London at the end of September, with an official announcement expected soon after.
So why are the men’s and women’s tours now hurriedly looking to merge when they have been against the idea, despite Billie Jean King advocating for them to do so since the early 1970s?
Choosing the known adversary
If you’re a golf fan, then you may already know the answer given the disruption that the Saudi-backed LIV Golf caused to the PGA Tour. As things stand, there are strong indications that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is now actively looking to do the same in professional tennis by offering players a lucrative alternative to the ATP and WTA.
BREAKING: The PGA Tour has agreed to merge with Saudi-backed rival LIV Golf ✍️ pic.twitter.com/cRHNk6Ymd2
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 6, 2023
Until recently, the WTA was set to host the tour’s season finale in Riyadh but has since decided against doing so with the tournaments to now take place in either the Czech Republic or Mexico. Had it not been for the objection from leading voices in the women’s game then these events would have gone ahead. What this back and forth did do, though, was alert senior figures of both tours that an unwanted takeover might be in the pipeline.
Essentially, releasing that time was not on their side, the respective governing bodies proceeded to open talks on how the two tours might merge into one organisation to fend off any disruption to their established business models. This is a proposed move, however, that could potentially require sizable sacrifices on behalf of the men’s players whose prize money is currently 75% higher in events outside of Grand Slams.
Should the merger go through, then it seems logical to assume that one of the prerequisites would be for prize money to be evenly distributed.
Compromise will have to take place.
As you can see, this isn’t a straightforward negotiation and will require significant give and take on all sides to see it happen. Not coming together, however, would leave the sport of tennis vulnerable to the type of takeover that was seen in progressional golf. Should that happen, then both the ATP and WTA face an uncertain future.