Johanna Konta, the British No. 1, insists any merger between the ATP and WTA Tours would ‘have to be a merger of equals because that’s what we are’ – despite WTA chief Steve Simon suggesting financial equity would only be a ‘long-term’ goal.
A merger has been hot on the agenda since Roger Federer tweeted his support for the men’s and women’s tours to merge – an idea that was put on the table four decades ago by the trailblazing Billie Jean King.
While at first glance a merger would appear to offer an opportunity for total financial equality for male and female tennis players – WTA players earn roughly 80% as much as their male counterparts – Simon poured cold water on suggestions it would come to fruition instantaneously.
He told The Telegraph earlier this month: ‘You certainly can’t go in with those expectations that it [financial equality] is immediately there. I think it’s a long-term goal.’
But Konta, who sits on the WTA player council and is a vocal critic of sexism within the sporting world, believes any merger between the governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis would have to bring about financial parity.
She said: ‘For me, for my comprehension, I don’t understand how it wouldn’t be of equals because if we are then talking about that, would it be us literally saying we are worth less than our male counterparts?
‘It would have to be a merger of equals because that’s what we are.
‘I wouldn’t see how right now in today’s age it would be allowed to be called anything else.’
Konta is, however, supportive of the plans to merge – which have gathered fresh momentum in the public arena after Federer tweeted his support – but is aware that any such move remain some way off coming to fruition.
‘Billie Jean King beat him to that a long time ago. So I think it is something that has been something talked about for a long time but having Roger vocalise it drew attention to it,’ added Konta.
‘I definitely think in the long run it makes sense for it to be one tour, it makes logical sense but I also know there are a lot of moving parts to it, and I know there will be a lot of people who won’t want it to happen, but also a lot of people who do want it to happen.
‘I think there is a long way between saying this is what should happen and this is what will happen. I am definitely for it and think it makes sense, I guess we will have to see what the people in suits are able to come up with.’
At the time, Konta – who regularly stresses the importance of ‘the process’ – was not critical of her disappointing straight sets defeat, but a year on she admitted it was a source of ‘heartbreak’ coming so close to a first major final.
‘I came away from the tournament being a Grand Slam semi-finalist again and I remember the match against Donna Vekic, making it to the quarters, that was a big moment for me,’ said Konta.
‘I had made it to the last eight of the three out of four at that point. Then I played Sloane and that was a very good match from my point of view, to make it to the semis for the first time since 2017 was something special.
‘But then there was bit of heartbreak for me. I lost the match against Vondrousova under difficult conditions. It was wet and chilly, we were at the back of the grounds somewhere. So it was definitely a difficult conditions for both of us.
‘It was a tough match to lose because I had opportunities, and my opponent played well. Definitely whoever was going to lose that match was going to hurt, and it definitely hurt.
‘But I can look back and say I am a semi-finalist at the French Open and it’s something I can be proud of. And who knows I may get another opportunity.’
As for when we’ll next see Konta in action, it may well be on British soil, with domestic competition likely to return in the coming months – far sooner, at any rate, than international tennis.
‘What I wouldn’t give for a crystal ball,’ she said when asked when she thought global tennis would resume. ‘I’m trying to live in the present and I’m just very grateful that I can hit again, hit today and tomorrow.
‘Until the June announcement I am thinking I’m preparing for something in July, maybe something nationally.’
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