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Could the LIV Tour Happen to Tennis?

With LIV Golf posing a legitimate threat to the PGA — picking off players and propping up big paydays — could pro tennis be the next target for a new breakaway league backed by big money?

Short answer: It’s complicated. The worlds of men’s and women’s professional tennis are alive and well. Or at least that’s how it appears.

Similar to the PGA, both the ATP and WTA each have a thriving fanbase that consistently turns out and tunes in, not to mention a healthy lineup of flagship tournaments (ahem … Wimbledon) that have become synonymous with the sport itself.

And of course, the glue that holds it all together is the loaded roster of talent tennis consistently serves up, a veritable who’s who of recognizable and highly-marketable players, young and old.

Players like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Coco Gauff, and Naomi Osaka have helped keep both men’s and women’s tennis relevant over the last decade and more. And let’s not forget the impact the now-retired Roger Federer and Serena Williams have had on their respective tours. The list goes on and on.

But just like the PGA, the world of pro tennis also has its fair share of problems.

Problems — aka weaknesses — that could make it a prime target for a hostile takeover of sorts.

Let’s have a look at the what, why, and how of whether an outside organization like LIV Golf, could attempt to take over tennis.

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Could Tennis Be Next? What the Critics Say

Yes. No. Maybe?

In the Sept. 30 edition of the Business of Tennis on Tennis.com, Peter Bodo begs the question:

“So what would Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz or Stefanos Tsitsipas do if they, like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed, were offered many millions in guaranteed salaries to play on a new tour? Could tennis experience its own LIV moment?”

Bodo’s column, appropriately titled “Is tennis ripe for a LIV Golf-style takeover?” attempts to paint a portrait of both sides of the coin.

In it, he points to conversations he had with ESPN analyst and former ATP president Cliff Drysdale, who opined that “tennis is ripe for the plucking.” He also quotes former USTA CEO Gordon Smith saying, “Of course, if someone came along and could double or triple prize money, sure the players would go for it.”

So is it possible? Of course. Cash is king.

But tennis doesn’t necessarily have a money problem; it has an equality problem. There are well-documented disparities in pay and perks with any of the players outside of the top 100.

“It’s common knowledge that only about 125 players can make a secure living from tennis. Golfers of comparable status, never mind NBA or NFL players, make much more,” Bodo writes.

Take a look for yourself. Both the ATP and WTA are incredibly transparent with their prize payouts from each tournament. What you’ll find is that the table scraps in tennis are clearly lacking.

But for all the reasons that it could happen, Bodo lays out several reasons why it likely won’t.

From logistical headaches to red flags with revenue, a takeover of tennis may not be as simple or lucrative as compared to what’s happening in pro golf. Unless of course, like LIV, a breakaway tour manages to coax away top players with boatloads of money. Then anything is possible.

For now, all appears to be aces on the tennis front. Unlike the PGA, which raised its prize pools under the pressure of LIV, tennis appears to see the writing on the wall.

Prize pools are increasing — the Nitto ATP Finals will award a record $14.75 million in prize money at this year’s season finale (a 103% increase over the year before) and the Challenger Tour is teeing up more money than ever before for the many up and coming pros. And new tournaments are also on the horizon, most notably a new global team event called the United Cup that brings players from both the ATP and WTA together for a shot at $15 million in prize money.

So, is tennis safe from a LIV-style takeover?

For now, yes. In the future, anything is possible.

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