By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, June 25, 2021
Days before launching his Wimbledon title defense, Novak Djokovic fired a direct shot at the ATP: Slow your roll.
The world No. 1, who founded the Professional Tennis Players Association along with Vasek Pospisil, is calling out the ATP to delay the vote on its 30-year plan. In short, the PTPA wants a seat at the decision-making table and the ATP has so far shown the group the door.
It’s the latest clash in an ongoing political power struggle between former ATP Player Council President Djokovic’s PTPA and the ATP.
The PTPA issued a statement saying it has repeatedly asked ATP officials to answer questions about specific elements of the 30-year plan, however it claims the ATP isn’t supplying answers. The PTPA posted its specific issues on its website, you can read it here.
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) June 24, 2021
“With our mission in mind, we have repeatedly asked the ATP to delay the vote on their 30-year plan until the players understand how it will impact their health, wellness rights (digital and/or otherwise) and their ability to make fair wages,” the PTPA said in a statement Djokovic posted on social media.
Earlier this week, the ATP took a shot at the PTPA in a statement branding the PTPA as a divisive group and further fragmenting tennis at a time when unity is essential to a positive future.
PTPA: ATP STATEMENT REGARDING PTPA
Protecting and advancing the interests of players has been a core principle of the ATP since it was founded as a player association in 1972. In 1990, this was furthered through the formation of the ATP Tour, an equal partnership between players and tournaments. Through this, players obtained something unique in sports: an equal voice on every decision in the board room of the Tour.
Today, ATP management, together with the Board and the ATP Player Council, whose representatives are democratically elected by all players, work week-in and week-out to advance the interests of players. This includes the recent development of an ambitious Strategic Plan that has the potential to deliver game-changing benefits to players through strengthened top tier events, 50-50 profit sharing, increased prize money and bonus pool, full transparency of audited tournament financials, raised tournament standards and long-term stability for the Tour.
This constructive collaboration, which has seen the ATP Tour develop into one of the world’s leading sports & entertainment properties over the past 30 years, underscores our belief that the players’ interests, and those of the Tour as a whole, must and will continue to be protected under ATP governance.
By contrast, the creation of a separate player entity provides a clear overlap, divides the players, and further fragments the sport. Fragmentation has been consistently identified as the single biggest threat to tennis’ growth potential by leading experts, from within and beyond sports, which is something the ATP is currently working to address through the Strategic Plan, as well as through the new T-7 working group, with enhanced collaboration with the WTA, Grand Slams and ITF.
The PTPA counters saying it’s simply asking essential questions about a 30-year-plan that will shape the sport over the next three decades. Djokovic and the PTPA say it’s simply incomprehensible the ATP refuses its request to answer questions about such a vital plan.
“It is unfathomable that the ATP would vote the week of 27 June 2021, when they have yet to finalize many elements of their deal that may impact the players’ health, wellness, and their ability to make their wages,” the PTPA said. “It is imperative that our leadership team work collaboratively with the ATP to determine if a 30-year plan is truly fair for the players. The players need to be properly informed.”
A core of the contentious issues between the groups is the PTPA’s calling for transparency from the ATP, tournament owners and Grand Slams, while the ATP counters the need for unity and asserts the PTPA is creating division and impeding its efforts for progress.
Recall during the Miami Open things got personal between Pospisil and ATP Chief and former player Andrea Gaudenzi.
Former Wimbledon doubles champion Pospisil blew up on court and revealed his rage was rooted in ATP Chairman Gaudenzi railing at him face-to-face during a players’ meeting in Miami.
“An hour and a half the chair of the ATP f—ing screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players,” Pospisil said to chair umpire Arnaud Gabas. “For an an hour and a half … The leader of the ATP… F–king a–hole…. If you want to default me, I’ll gladly sue this whole organization.”
Though Pospisil did not do press after the match he took to Twitter to apologize for his behavior.
Still, that emotional eruption showed how passionate, determined and divided both sides are in this ongoing battle.
The question is: Will the ATP listen and delay the vote? And if it doesn’t will the PTPA raise the stakes and flex its political muscle with a counter move? And how will Djokovic respond to this added stress chasing a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title at Wimbledon? What happens if the ATP proceeds as planned with the vote?
While several ATP veterans, including John Isner and Sam Querrey, back the PTPA, both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have called for unity and support of the Gaudenzi-led ATP. Federer and Hall of Famer Billie Jean King have both called for exploring unifying the ATP and WTA into one combined pro circuit. The PTPA has said it has support of some WTA players too.
Former ATP Player Council member Pospisil and former ATP Player Council President Djokovic have invested a lot of time and energy trying to advocate on behalf of players and both have had emotional eruptions on court during the past year.
Yet both former ATP insiders remain committed to enacting change to the ATP as now political outsiders.
“Tennis needs major change,” Pospisil told Mark Masters on TSN’s Tennis in Depth last spring. “It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s until I opened my eyes to how many issues there were in tennis. I felt like ‘Why aren’t we able to change anything as players. We have so much leverage if we actually decided to get organized and use it, because without the players there is no tennis tour.”
Photo credit: Getty