Federer could get his tennis wish in retirement after £125m investment

Roger Federer’s wish for the tennis tours could finally have a chance of coming true more than three years later. The Swiss star shared his hopes for the ATP and WTA to merge when the sport shut down for the pandemic in 2020. WTA CEO Steve Simon has revealed there is room for the tours to join forces following a £125 million ($150 million) investment into the WTA.

Previous Formula One owners CVC Capital Partners announced a bumper investment into the WTA on Tuesday, ahead of International Women’s Day. As part of the multi-million-pound deal, female tennis players are expected to receive a boost in their prize money by generating more cash through elements like sponsorship sales and broadcasting deals.

But the huge deal also has another hidden element that could see the women’s tennis tour join forces with their male counterpart, the ATP. CVC has already held talks with the men’s tour but opted to invest in the WTA for now, though women’s tennis boss Steve Simon admitted that the investors had given their blessing for a possible merger in the future.

The WTA Chairman and CEO has previously expressed his interest in the tours joining forces – something Federer called for three years ago while tournaments came to a halt amid the Covid pandemic. “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?” the 20-time Grand Slam champion tweeted in April 2020.

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“I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours.” His idea was backed by Rafael Nadal, who responded: “Hey @rogerfederer as you know per our discussions I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men’s and women’s tennis in one organisation,” while top women’s stars like Simona Halep also echoed the 41-year-old’s sentiment.

Simon himself is a fan of the idea and has now revealed that the WTA’s agreement with CVC had room for a potential merger between the two governing bodies even though they had only invested in the women’s product. “If we can ever get to the point where we could bring it all together, this agreement with CVC allows for that to happen,” he told the New York Times.

The deal is already a unique one, as the women’s tour set up a new subsidiary – WTA Ventures – in which CVC now has 20 per cent stake, meaning the WTA Tour itself remains untouched when it comes to the tennis matters and the investors can focus on bringing in money. Simon explained: “The way we set all this up, WTA Tour Inc. is not touched. The WTA still controls 100 percent all of the governance, regulatory and calendar issues.”

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It comes after Simon expressed his interest in merging with the ATP in May 2020 off the back of Federer’s tweet – as long as it was done in the right way without one tour “acquiring” the other. “I’m not afraid of the full merger; I never have been,” he told NYT at the time.

“I would certainly be the first to support it, because I think then you truly have the business and the strategic principles all aligned, which is what you need to do. Obviously it’s a long and winding road to get there, but I think it makes all the sense in the world.

“This isn’t about trying to save the WTA. We’ll be fine, but look, if we’re going to do the right business thing and we’re finally going to bring the sport together, I think the WTA would be very supportive of this concept.” And with a new cash boost from CVC, it could be a feasible option for the tours in the future, building on Federer’s initial hopes from three years ago.

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