Calls for unity in tennis as Djokovic launches new players' association
A group of men’s tennis players, led by world number one Novak Djokovic, have formed a new association to represent their interests.
The Professional Tennis Players’ Association was launched in New York on Saturday, ahead of the start of the US Open, with up to 70 players who have signed up featuring in a photo posted on social media.
Serbian Djokovic has stepped down as president of the ATP player council in order to serve as co-president of the PSPA, together with Canadian Vasek Pospisil, but claims the new organisation can operate alongside the established body.
However, the ATP, which organises the elite tour, and other top players including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have expressed concerns over the move, and elsewhere there are reservations about the lack of female involvement in the new body.
The PTPA is intended to represent the top 500 men’s singles players and top 200 doubles players.
Following his victory in the final of the Western & Southern Open in New York on Saturday, Djokovic said: “I have read in the letter from the ATP that they think the ATP cannot co-exist with this association. I have to respectfully disagree. Legally, we are 100 per cent safe, and we are allowed to form the player association. We are not calling for boycotts, we are not forming parallel tours. This is an important step for players, and for the sport as well.
"We just want to have our own organisation, that is 100 per cent ours. We are definitely going to try and work with ATP, and all the governing bodies."
In a statement, the ATP Tour said: “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.
"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."
It was supported by the women’s WTA, the International Tennis Federation and the organisers of the four grand slams, which said in a statement: “It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division; a time to consider and act in the best interests of the sport, now and for the future. When we work together, we are a stronger sport."
Spain’s Nadal, who is not competing in the US Open because of concerns over Covid-19, had already clarified his opposition to the new association, stating on social media: “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. These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united."
He was backed by Federer, also absent from New York, who shared the post and added: “I agree. 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."