ATP & WTA Heads Set To Discuss Historic Merger To Stave Off Potential Saudi Takeover

ATP & WTA Heads Set To Discuss Historic Merger To Stave Off Potential Saudi Takeover

by Nurein Ahmed

The governing bodies of professional tennis, ATP and WTA, are set to hold talks of a historic merger in a radical attempt to prevent a possible takeover by Saudi Arabia.

As reported exclusively by Telegraph Sport UK, the first steps of this process will begin by summoning top heads and tournament representatives from both tours to a two-day meeting in London at the end of September.

It is pertinent to note that the ATP and WTA operate as independent bodies, and while the idea is in the works, there are major roadblocks to clear before it becomes official. Both boards have different structures, rules, and decision-making processes. Mooting the idea of a merger means they'll need to invite substantial changes in leadership.

While the four Grand Slams have always operated as distinct entities, Tour-level tournaments on the ATP and WTA sides have their own sponsorships and broadcast TV rights. Merging will create a logistical and financial challenge among the relevant partners and stakeholders.

But the emergence of Saudi Arabia as a prominent sporting hub has forced tennis bosses' hands here. Three years since retired tennis icon Roger Federer teased the idea on Twitter, it looks the ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi and his WTA counterpart Steve Simon are finally looking to see beyond their rose-tinted glasses.

Amid accusations of sportswashing, Saudi Arabia has reiterated that their staggering investment in sports is meant to transform and diversify the oil-dependent Gulf nation's economy. From hosting sports events such as boxing, wrestling, and F1, to luring world-class football players on massive contracts, it was only a matter of time before it extended its hand to tennis.

The ATP views Saudi Arabia as part of its long-term strategy and has discussed the possibility of adding a 10th Masters event to the calendar although there is a massive scheduling issue to an already packed tennis season.

With the takeover of the Next Gen ATP Finals which will be held in Saudi Arabia for the next five years, they are reportedly in contention to host the WTA Finals after submitting a bid that is expected to deliver record prize money for the tournament.

It will be fascinating to follow up on this latest development in what will be a historic moment for tennis.


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