Johanna Konta has cautiously offered her support to the idea of the ATP and the WTA tours merging.
While discussions about the viability of a merger were pushed into the spotlight by tweets from Roger Federer in April – since when both ATP and WTA chief executives, Andrea Gaudenzi and Steve Simon – have expressed support for it, Konta has underlined that it remains only an idea.
“Billie Jean King beat him [Federer] to that a long time ago,” Konta said. “So I think it is something that has been talked about for a long time but having Roger vocalise it drew attention to it. 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.”
A prominent member of the WTA player council – which has convened frequently since the tour suspension – Konta points out that “not so much” has been said since the initial discussion following Federer’s tweets. Should anything come to fruition, she stresses the need for equality.
“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.”
It is not difficult to understand Konta’s caution. This time last year, her run to the semi‑finals at Roland Garros ended against Marketa Vondrousova after they were forced on to a half‑empty stadium away from the show courts following bad weather. She said afterwards that she was tired of women having to “justify their scheduling or their involvement in an event or their salary or their opportunities”. She understands the potential cost of the WTA losing its independence.
As eloquent as Konta has always been on general issues, she can be less forthcoming about her own tennis. She often projects her mentality, cocooning herself in relentless positivity. It can be difficult to know how she really feels. One year later, it is refreshing to hear an honest reflection of her Parisian fortnight.
“To make it to the semis for the first time since 2017 was something special. But then there was bit of heartbreak for me … 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 now, Konta’s ongoing knee injury is “getting there” but is something she will always have to manage. She is open to contesting the planned LTA national tournaments as the tour remains frozen, now suspended until at least 31 July with the US Open’s status to be declared in mid-June. She has started the Johanna Konta Podcast to pass the time. She misses strolling to her favourite cafe in Battersea Park.
“I miss people being relaxed as well,” the 29-year-old player said. “When you’re outside you can feel people being anxious. I think there are quite a lot of angry people about, although there are a lot of very kind people who are being more friendly than normal and want to interact. But there is a lot of anxiety about.”