Djokovic-Led Tennis Players’ Association Meets Mixed Reviews

    • Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil announced the new group in an email to players.
    • Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are among dissenters.

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World No. 1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic and No. 92-ranked Vasek Pospisil are forming a renegade group to represent the interests of male players outside of how the Association of Tennis Professionals has historically done, The New York Times reported Aug. 28.

The two resigned from their leadership roles on the ATP player council; Djokovic was president.

The Serbian Djokovic and Canadian Pospisil appointed themselves “initial co-presidents” of the new association with a term of two years. Future plans include a governing board of up to nine people. 

It’s not abundantly clear what the mission of the Professional Tennis Players Association is, beyond representing men’s singles players in the top 500 and doubles players in the top 200. Players unions in other professional sports, like the MLB, NFL and NBA, bargain on behalf of players collectively — but in tennis, players are independent contractors. 

“The goal of the P.T.P.A. is not to replace the ATP, but to provide players with a self-governance structure that is independent from the ATP and is directly responsive to player-members’ needs and concerns,” Pospisil and Djokovic said in an email encouraging others to sign on obtained by The Times. 

In the email, Djokovic and Pospisil included “revenue sharing, disciplinary actions, player pensions, travel, insurance and amenities at tournaments as issues the new association would attempt to address,” The Times reported. 

The proposal was met with strong pushback from top tennis players and officials alike. But approximately 60 of the association’s first members posed for a photo together on Aug. 30.

“The world is living a difficult and complicated situation. I personally believe these are times to be calm and work all of us together in the same direction. It is time for unity, not for separation,” Rafel Nadal tweeted. “These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united. We all, players, tournaments and governing bodies have to work together. We have a bigger problem and separation and disunion is definitely not the solution.”

Roger Feder quote-tweeted Nadal’s response and added: “These are uncertain and challenging times, but I believe it’s critical for us to stand united as players, and as a sport, to pave the best way forward.”

At his media appearance ahead of the U.S. Open, Andy Murray also voiced that he has some areas of concern with the proposed plan, including that he opposes women not being included. 

“One is, I feel like the current management that are in place should be given some time to implement their vision,” Murray said, referring to the new leadership that took over at the helm of the ATP Tour at the end of 2019. “The fact that the women aren’t part of it, I feel like [restructuring] would send a much more powerful message if the WTA were on board with it, as well. That’s not currently the case.”

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi warned players they could lose power in the sport by joining the breakaway group. 

“You have what other athletes in other sports would strive for — a seat at the boardroom table. That is what players fought for in the creation of the ATP Tour,” Gaudenzi said. “It makes no sense why you would be better served by shifting your role from the inside to the outside of the governance structure.”