Novak Djokovic and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) were at odds once again as the Serbian world number one announced the structure and formation of his Professional Tennis Players’ Association (PTPA).
The association was founded by Djokovic and world No 66 Vasek Pospisil, and while it was announced ten months ago at the US Open, it now has a website, an advisory board and a communications team.
The pair started the organisation following criticisms of conflicts of interest within the ATP and its governance structure at large, while they are also proponents of a greater distribution of wealth among lower ranked tennis players.
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"We want to be accepted, respected and acknowledged," said Djokovic during the 50-minute press conference.
"That’s what we want. That’s what we deserve as players. When I say ‘we’, I don’t just think and say that it’s about Vasek and myself or PTPA management. It’s about players and hundreds of players that are part of PTPA movement and part of PTPA initiatives.
"This is what our aim is – we will never find out how PTPA will be incorporated or not incorporated within the current ecosystem of tennis, the structure, until certain things are done and certain steps are made."
The announcement was made ahead of this week´s high-profile vote on the ATP´s strategy, a 30-year plan aimed at boosting revenue and increasing prize money.
But the PTPA have been critical of it, saying that it lacks transparency and calling for a delay to the vote. The plan would come into effect in 2023.
And the ATP have, in turn, been highly critical of the PTPA, calling it divisive to the tour.
“The creation of a separate player entity provides a clear overlap, divides the players, and further fragments the sport,¨ said the ATP in a statement released earlier in the week.
“Fragmentation has been consistently identified as the single biggest threat to tennis’s growth potential by leading experts from within and beyond sports,”
Indeed, reaction to the PTPA among tennis stars has been split, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer calling for unity on Twitter, but Djokovic claims that support for the PTPA is up to 70 per cent among target male players. The association is currently open to the top 350 singles players and 150-ranked doubles players, across both male and female competitions.
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But Djokovic and Pospisil were keen to insist that their association is designed to complement the ATP, not replace it or work in opposition to it.
"We feel that we’re gonna give them a chance because obviously we need to collaborate together," said Pospisil. "At some point, I think they’ll realise that when we have this many players it’s important to collaborate with us."
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