Top tennis players join Novak Djokovic in breakaway PTPA movement

Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa are two of the new members of the Professional Tennis Players Association executive committee.

Novak Djokovic, pictured here alongside Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa on the tennis court.
Ons Jabeur and Paula Badosa have joined Novak Djokovic's breakaway tennis body the PTPA. Image: Getty

A group of eight players including top stars Ons Jabeur, Paula Badosa and Hubert Hurkacz have joined Novak Djokovic in joining the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) executive committee. Djokovic came up with the idea of the PTPA in 2020 and resigned from the ATP players' council to form the player-only association - separate from tennis' existing governing bodies.

Along with Canadian player Vasek Pospisil, Djokovic formed the breakaway players' body in an attempt to shake up the tennis world order and advocate for better rights for all players from the top down. Djokovic and Pospisil said the PTPA is aimed at better protecting the interests of all players, however it received staunch opposition at the time.

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On Wednesday, the PTPA announced a group of eight players had formed the PTPA's first executive committee. Djokovic and Pospisil are joined by Jabeur, Badosa, Hurkacz, John Isner, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Zheng Saisai.

It marks a significant step for the breakaway body after the likes of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal had spoken out against 'dividing' the tennis world during the Covid-19 pandemic. Jabeur is the women's World No.2 and finished runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open last year.

Hurkacz is men's World No.10 and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2021, while Badosa is World No.13 and a quarter-finalist at the French Open. Isner has previously been as high as World No.8, while Mattek-Sands has won nine grand slam doubles titles - five in women’s and four in mixed.

“This organisation was founded on the belief that every player must be respected, protected and guaranteed their rights, and the PTPA Principles will serve as our compass to ensure we live up to those standards," Pospisil said in a statement to Yahoo Sport Australia. "The PTPA will thrive only through collective voice and the strength and solidarity of the players. We are prepared to face both the challenges and opportunities ahead to advance the rights of all players.

Mattek-Sands said: "We are all unequivocally committed to representing every player during this incredibly important time in the sport of tennis. The sports entertainment environment is constantly evolving, and I have a particular focus on supporting and elevating women by aggressively pursuing and creating opportunities with a female focused approach.

"This too is a strong focus of the PTPA, represented by our organisational principles and for me personally. I am genuinely excited to make an impact and pioneer change."

Hubert Hurkacz and Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the ATP Finals in 2021.
Hubert Hurkacz and Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals in 2021. (Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images for ATP)

PTPA Executive Director Ahmad Nassar said: "We are grateful to have this extraordinarily accomplished and diverse group of women and men serve on our first Player Executive Committee. These individuals represent some of the strongest and most passionate voices in professional tennis, and they will have a profound impact on our efforts at the PTPA to serve all players."

The PTPA also unveiled a list of five guiding principles "designed to protect, respect and guarantee the fundamental rights of players". They include:

  • Take collective action and advocate on behalf of tennis players globally

  • Obtain players’ fair share of the business of tennis and terms of participation

  • Optimise and rigorously protect tennis players’ rights

  • Safeguard tennis players’ welfare and protect players from abuse

  • Advocate for, and contribute to, the best vision and structure of tennis globally

PTPA has received strong opposition from ATP

In 2021 the ATP issued a strongly-worded statement after the PTPA emerged. It said: "Protecting and promoting the interests of players has been a fundamental principle of the ATP since its founding as a players association in 1972.

"In 1990, this was further strengthened with the formation of the ATP Tour, an equal partnership between players and tournaments. With this, the players have achieved something unique in the sport: an equal voice in all decisions affecting the Tour.

"On the contrary, the creation of a separate entity offers a clear overlap, divides the players and further fragments the tennis. Fragmentation has consistently been identified as the greatest threat to tennis's growth potential by leading experts inside and outside the sport, something the ATP is currently working to address."

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has also criticised the PTPA previously, saying: “He (Novak Djokovic) thinks he’s doing the right thing. You’re trying to divide us further when we should be trying to bring the game together and trying to figure out how to play tournaments without people getting sick and dying from Covid. Let’s stay with that problem rather than creating one we don’t need."

Djokovic recently said the PTPA needs to exist "because players don't have 100 percent representation in the tennis world. With the association they have that. Hopefully more players will be showing the willingness to understand what PTPA can do for them.

"It's a process that will take a longer time just because we are not getting credibility from other governing bodies, so it will take longer, but we'll stay there, and it's something that hopefully can stay for many decades to come."

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