Djokovic defies calls for unity by setting up players' association

Novak Djokovic defies calls for unity by setting up new male players’ association despite strong opposition from Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray as World No1 and allies look to become force in global game

  • Novak Djokovic announced the launch of a breakaway men’s player association
  • The first players to sign up for the PTPA met on Saturday ahead of the US Open
  • Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have all vocalised opposition
  • The World No1 hopes that the stars will change their minds in the future 

Wimbledon and the other three Grand Slams will be on alert after Novak Djokovic and his allies pushed through their idea of setting up a new male players’ association.

A Saturday night meeting in New York saw more than 60 of the men playing in this week’s US Open sign up for the new ‘union’ designed to more clearly press their own interests.

Defying calls from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and various governing bodies for restraint and unity, they will seek to become a new force in the already fractured governance structure of the global game.

World No1 Novak Djokovic has announced the launch of a breakaway men’s player association

Roger Federer (above), Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have all vocalised their opposition

While there may not be any immediate impact, a long-term goal of the new grouping is sure to be a push for increased prize money, especially at the Grand Slams.

At present the hugely profitable Big Four events offer roughly 15-18 per cent of their gross revenues to pay the players, which some believe is not enough. This despite the fact that first round singles losers are now paid in excess of £40,000, not to mention the huge facilities investment programmes that the four venues have seen in recent years.

We are also entering an era in which money, at least for the next few years, is likely to be tighter.

Djokovic shared the news of the PTPA’s launch in an Instagram post ahead of the US Open 

Murray said that he would like women to be included in any player union or association

It remains unclear how the organisation will interact with the Association of Tennis Professionals, which runs the rump of the tour and is an alliance between tournaments and players, but the newcomers are likely to have a more militant mindset.

American journalist Ben Rothenberg reported the group’s Canadian lawyer, Walied Soliman, as complaining that the Grand Slams had refused communication during the process of setting themselves up. 

Soliman described his dealings with the Slams: ‘My experience of these folks has been that they are the most arrogant, elitist, out-of-touch, living-in-a-bubble counterparty that I may have ever encountered’.

One of the main ringleaders, Canada’s Vasek Pospisil struck a more conciliatory tone, saying: ‘The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) did not emerge to be combative, to disrupt, or to cause any issues within or outside the tennis tour. 

‘Simply to unify the players, have our voices heard & have an impact on decisions being made that effect our lives & livelihoods.’ 

Unity appears to be a long way off, and not just because there is no involvement at this point of the women. Djokovic and his crew maintain they would like female involvement, but that the priority was to keep things as simple as possible at first to gain lift-off.

Nadal said the association is not the solution and that players must work with governing bodies

Many players have clearly held off from signing up, at least for now, and it is understood that includes all the British men eligible to join.

But among those who posed on Arthur Ashe Stadium for a picture to mark the beginning of the first tennis players’ union since 1972 were some of the higher profile names, headed by Djokovic.

The notables included John Isner and Grigor Dimitrov plus two of the biggest stars of the future, Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger-Aliassime.

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