LONDON (Reuters) - Tennis governing bodies should use the time during the lengthy coronavirus shutdown to align their interests and fix the imbalance in the calendar, six-times Grand Slam winner Boris Becker told Reuters on Tuesday.
Roger Federer called for a merger between the men’s and women’s tours on social media recently, with the men’s ATP Tour Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, and his women’s WTA Tour counterpart Steve Simon, both welcoming the suggestion.
Becker backed the idea and said the ongoing pause is an opportunity for the sport’s stakeholders to work together.
“In my perfect world I would like to see much more combined events,” Becker said in an interview.
“Men and women events over 10 days would be the ideal scenario moving forward. In my take we have too many tennis tournaments week in week out.
“Sometimes we have two or three in the same week in different countries which I don’t think is right. And obviously the smaller tournaments will have a hard time to survive in the current crisis. And who knows where they are going to be put back next year.
“So I would really hope the governing bodies and big tournaments, the Masters Series on both sides, that they really come together and find a formula which is good for the game.”
The tennis season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the hiatus will continue at least until mid-July as countries have shut borders and gone into lockdown to contain the spread of the virus.
The pandemic has led to the cancellation of Wimbledon and the postponement of the French Open to September, while the status of the U.S. Open, scheduled to take place as usual in late August, is still unclear.
Many have voiced doubts if professional tennis can return in 2020 with the sport needing players to jet around the world to participate in tournaments.
“I think a lot depends on the decision regarding the U.S. Open and the French Open,” said Becker, who was named as an ambassador for GG Poker and King’s Resort last month.
“I think if that’s positive then we will have a tournament or two before the Open in America. I think it was good of the Open to say ‘listen, let’s wait and see and not make a rushed decision’.
“If it is positive then I think we will have tennis for the rest of the year. If we don’t have the Open, the French Open, I don’t think we will have tennis for the rest of the year.”
The possibility of a total tennis wipeout for the rest of the season has led some to speculate whether the shutdown would be more detrimental to younger players or the game’s dominant talents.
Becker believes the younger generation would be harder hit, having lost out on a year’s experience.
“If the year is lost, I don’t think it’s bad for Federer or Serena (Williams) because they haven’t really abused their bodies for another year, in a way they have gained a year,” the German said of the duo, who will both turn 39 this year.
“I think it is good for Andy Murray because it gives him more time to come back and get physically ready for 2021.
“I think it benefits more (Novak) Djokovic, (Rafa) Nadal, Federer because they know how good they are, they know what to do, and I don’t think we are going to see a change of form from them.”
Writing by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Toby Davis