Novak Djokovic has resigned as head of the Association of Tennis Professionals Player Council and formed a breakaway body to represent the interests of only male players.
Djokovic, the world’s top ranked male player, announced the new players association had formed on Twitter over the weekend, sharing an image of a group of male players wearing masks.
After yesterday’s successful meeting, we are excited to announce the beginning of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA). The first player only association in tennis since 1972. #PTPA pic.twitter.com/q8H0aOdqDl— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) August 30, 2020
As reported by the New York Times, Djokovic and Canadian Vasek Pospisil have formed the group, convinced players need more leverage with tournaments. In a document sent to players, the pair said the goal of the new Professional Tennis Players Association is not to replace the ATP.
“The goal of the P.T.P.A. is not to replace the ATP, but to provide players with a self-governance structure that is independent from the ATP and is directly responsive to player-members’ needs and concerns,” Pospisil and Djokovic said in the document.
Djokovic and Pospisil have appointed themselves as co-presidents, serving for the first two years of the association.
While more details of the new association are for the moment unclear, the announcement has been met with significant criticism including from some of tennis’ biggest names. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray do not support the new association, and have called for unity.
Murray, a long-time supporter of gender equality in tennis, has criticised the association for not including women and said he would reconsider joining if this changed.
“I’m not totally against a player union, or players’ association, but right now there’s a couple of things: one is I feel like the current management should be given some time to implement their vision. Whether that works out or not would potentially influence me in the future as to which way I would go,” Murray said.
“Also, the fact that the women aren’t part of [the new plans]. I feel like that would send a significantly much more powerful message, if the WTA were on board as well. That’s not currently the case. If those things changed in the future, it’s something that I would certainly consider.”
Retired Australian tennis player Todd Woodbridge said the move from Djokovic was “tone deaf”, especially in a sport where women now earn equal prize money.
“It’s just poor judgment at this time. Everybody’s losing jobs, millions are out of work, tournaments are struggling to stay up and afloat, and the tour’s been trying for the last six months to get back, ” he told Nine’s Sports Sunday program.
“But there’s the biggest downfall of all and that’s … where are the women? If you’re going to do this, tennis is the one sport that’s united in the world, with equal prize money, our majors are played together.
“We are better and stronger as one and we’re not standing up to that. This group has totally missed the mark on an opportunity to bring everybody together and I think that’s going to be their downfall.”
The governing bodies of tennis, including the International Tennis Federation, the men’s and women’s tours and Grand Slam tournaments, released a joint statement, saying now is not the time for division.
“We have worked tirelessly to ensure a safe return to competition, providing flexibility and fairness through adjustments to rules, and financial support for those who need it most,” the statement said.
“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.”