WTA chief Simon backs Federer’s ATP merger plans; Sharapova recalls dinner with Djoker - GulfToday

WTA chief Simon backs Federer’s ATP merger plans; Sharapova recalls dinner with Djoker


Maria Sharapova reacts during a match. File

The head of the WTA Tour has voiced support for a merger with the ATP Tour following calls led by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to integrate the men’s and women’s circuits.

In an interview with the New York Times published Tuesday, WTA chief executive Steve Simon said a unified circuit made sense.

“I’m not afraid of the full merger; I never have been,” Simon told the Times.

“I would certainly be the first to support it ... Obviously it’s a long and winding road to get there, but I think it makes all the sense in the world.” Simon’s remarks came after Federer and Nadal voiced support for a merger last month.

“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?” Federer asked in a posting on Twitter.

Federer’s statement drew enthusiastic support, with Nadal and trailblazing women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King among those aligning with the Swiss ace.

“I agree, and have been saying so since the early 1970s. One voice, women and men together... Let’s make it happen,” King tweeted.

“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 only organization,” Nadal added.

In his interview with the Times, Simon said that any unification was still some way in the distant future.

However, the climate of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic could provide the impetus to reach agreement on a merger.

“This is a unique time,” Simon said. “Crisis and challenges can sometimes provide opportunity as well.

“There’s going to be no shortage of accountants, tax attorneys, attorneys and everybody else that is involved with it. It would take time, but conceptually it may not take as long.

“If you agree on the goal, you can usually get things done quicker.”

Both the ATP and WTA Tours have been forced to take cost-cutting measures since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. Both tours have been on hiatus during the crisis, with several tournaments either canceled or postponed.

Simon told the Times that a merger was not necessary to ensure the WTA Tour’s survival.

“This isn’t about trying to save the WTA,” Simon said.

Meanwhile, Five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova has revealed that fellow tennis star and World No.1 Djokovic was once fanboying on her over dinner.

During an Instagram Live chat with the Serbian ace, Sharapova, who called time on her illustrious career in February, said: “I remember we played this little exhibition. I was young, you were young, way before you had any Grand Slam titles. I don’t know if you’d even won a tournament at that point,” said Sharapova. This part of the chat was shared by ATP Tour on their official Twitter handle.

“You said that if you’d win (in a mixed doubles match), I would have to pay dinner. I was like, ‘Okay, whatever, who is this kid?’” Sharapova recalled.

“You won and you were like, ‘We have dinner tonight. We’re going to the Japanese place!’ I was like, ‘Are you serious? You and me, going to dinner, tonight?’ So we did. We ended up going to dinner and it was so funny because you pulled out I think it was an old Kodak camera and you asked the waiter to take a photo of us… and here we are,” she further said.

“It’s actually what happened. Maria is saying the truth,” Djokovic said, laughing.

“I think you were fanboying,” Sharapova replied.

Djokovic recently said that he was “mentally empty” and “confused” at the beginning of the ongoing freeze of the tennis calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic.



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