Djokovic, Pospisil look to form new players association
World number one Novak Djokovic is trying to form a new body to represent players and has resigned from his position as the president of the players council of the Association of Tennis Professionals, the New York Times said on Saturday.
Canadian Vasek Pospisil, a member of the Djokovic-led council, said he had also resigned from his position after serving for two years as the player representative for the 51-100 ranking positions.
“It has become clear that, as a player council member within the current structure of the ATP, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions made by our tour,” Pospisil wrote on Twitter.
The players are now assembled in New York’s bio-secure bubble ahead of the U.S. Open Grand Slam from Monday. The new body will be called the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) and a document detailing plans and objectives has been distributed to players, seeking their signatures.
“The goal of the PTPA is not to replace the ATP, but to provide players with a self-governance structure that is independent from the ATP and directly responsive to player-members’ needs and concerns,” the newspaper quoted the document as saying.
Djokovic overcame a sore neck to defeat Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6 6-4 7-6(0) and set up a showpiece match against Canadian Milos Raonic in the Western & Southern Open. The Serbian did not attend the post-match news conference and organisers said he “was not feeling well on court today and it worsened after the match”.
Representatives of Djokovic and Pospisil did not respond to requests for comment. The ATP currently governs the men’s professional Tour and its board, chaired by former Italian professional player Andrea Gaudenzi, is composed of representatives of both players and tournaments.
The governing body reminded the players that they have an equal say on decisions affecting the circuit.
“We recognise the challenges that our members face in today’s circumstances, however we strongly believe that now is a time for unity, rather than internal division,” the ATP said in a statement.
“We remain unwavering in our commitment to deliver for our players across all areas of our business, ensuring they receive maximum benefit from their years on Tour, and that their voices are heard.”
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who make up the ‘Big Three’ of men’s tennis along with Djokovic, are also part of the council but are not in New York as they are not playing the U.S. Open. Their representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
In April, Federer called on the ATP and the women’s WTA Tour to explore the possibility of merging while the circuit remained suspended due to the pandemic. Besides the ATP and the WTA, the sport is also controlled by the International Tennis Federation and the boards of the four Grand Slams.
In a joint statement, the governing bodies said they have worked “tirelessly” to ensure the sport returned safely after a five-month hiatus due to COVID-19 and help the players who needed financial help during the shutdown.
“Now more than ever we need collaboration and strong relationships, and we fully support the ATP in its role in representing the best interests of players throughout this process,” it said.
Raonic said a “majority” of players was expected to sign in favour of the new association. “Players have had plenty of time to think and reflect and take a look at certain parts which they may not be happy with and discuss,” he said on Friday.
“A lot of us were kept in the dark by our leadership for six months. We were disappointed with many things.”