Novak Djokovic, the No. 1 ranked tennis player in the world, along with American John Isner and Canadian Vasek Pospisil, have all reportedly resigned from the Association of Tennis Professionals to start their own breakaway tennis group, the Professional Tennis Players Association.
According to the New York Times, Djokovic resigned his position as president of the player council and Isner resigned his position as well. Pospisil is the only one of the three to have publicly announced his resignation from the ATP.
What do we know about the PTPA?
Very little is known about the breakaway group. While it’s clear from Pospisil’s resignation tweet that the group is seeking to give tennis players more power and representation in decision making, little is known beyond that.
The Times did obtain an informational document that Djokovic and Pospisil distributed to other players.
“The goal of the PTPA 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,” the players said in the document soliciting sign-ups from other top players on the tour.
In a separate message to players last week, Pospisil said that he envisioned the new group acting essentially like a union, but with more legal flexibility. It would represent player interests in things like amenities at tournaments, travel, player pensions, revenue sharing, and discipline.
“There will be a lot of work building and perfecting the operations of this association, but this is the first and most pivotal step that we must take,” Pospisil, who has been consulting with the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, wrote in his message to players. He added, “Our voices will finally be heard and we will soon have an impact on decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods.”
The ATP has not made a formal statement about the new breakaway group, but the Times obtained a letter sent to players by chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, urging them not to sign up for the PTPA.
“You have what other athletes in other sports would strive for — a seat at the boardroom table. That is what players fought for in the creation of the ATP Tour,” Gaudenzi said. “It makes no sense why you would be better served by shifting your role from the inside to the outside of the governance structure.”
While the ATP may see the PTPA as an existential threat, at least a few players are interested in signing up. Canadian Milos Raonic, the No. 30 men’s player in the world who will be facing Djokovic in the final of the Western and Southern Open on Saturday, told the Times that he plans on signing up, and he expects many of his fellow players to do the same.
What about female tennis players?
One group not represented by the PTPA is women. Thus far it appears they have been entirely left out of the new breakaway group, and it’s not clear if there are plans to incorporate them. The ATP only represents men, while women are represented by the Women’s Tennis Association.
There has been recent discussion about merging the ATP and WTA, and major stars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been supportive of that. However, the Times reported that “many men’s players” strongly object to merging the tours, arguing that women tennis players “do not deserve” to make as much money as men.
Pospisil has publicly argued for Grand Slam tournaments to put more money toward female athletes, but it’s unknown if the PTPA will adopt that stance.
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