ATP-WTA talks focused on pooling media rights not merging tennis tours – sources

The WTA and ATP Tours are set for talks in London this month but a full merger is unlikely

The WTA and ATP Tours are set for talks in London this month but a full merger is unlikely
The WTA and ATP Tours are set for talks in London this month but a full merger is unlikely

Talks between the men’s and women’s tennis tours about working together more closely are unlikely to lead to a merger, according to sources close to the process.

The ATP and WTA tours are due to meet in London later this month, principally to discuss pooling their broadcast and commercial rights in a bid to increase the value.

But while the cash-strapped WTA is pushing the idea, there is understood to be less appetite from the ATP, which is in a healthier financial position.

Even if they did agree to team up, it would only be to sell rights at this stage. While in theory it could be seen as a first step towards a full merger and one single governing body, that is not believed to be on the cards in the foreseeable future.

This is not the first time that the WTA and ATP have been involved in talks around pooling their media and commercial rights.

In 2021, CVC Capital Partners proposed buying a minority stake in both of the tours’ businesses. The ATP Tour rejected the idea but the WTA was more receptive and confirmed the sale of 20 per cent of their new media rights vehicle WTA Ventures to the private equity firm.

While the WTA, and in particular the most prominent tournaments on its calendar, are driving the renewed talk of closer collaboration with its men’s counterpart, there are some who suspect the hand of CVC too.

The women’s tour generates only around half of the ATP’s approximately $175m (£140m) revenue and, in contrast, has been on the decline since 2019. 

One of the reasons that discussions about cooperation between the tours have resurfaced is the fear that Saudi Arabia could seek to launch a tennis equivalent of its LIV Golf tour.

The oil-rich Gulf nation is already making moves in the sport as it seeks to build on its investments in golf and football.

Jeddah will host the ATP Tour’s Next Gen Finals from 2024, while Saudi officials have also held exploratory talks with the WTA and player organisations such as Novak Djokovic’s PTPA. 

A lucrative Saudi-backed tennis circuit that lured some of the game’s leading names could play havoc with the established tours, as LIV has in golf.

But one barrier to that plan would be the relative scarcity of venues able to stage top-tier tennis tournaments.

The WTA has flirted with Saudi investment as a route to boosting pay, a play that would imitate golf’s Ladies European Tour and its Aramco Team Series.


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