'Divides the players': ATP's attack on Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon

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Novak Djokovic, pictured here addressing the media at Wimbledon.
Novak Djokovic addresses the media at Wimbledon. (Photo by AELTC/FLORIAN EISELE/AFP via Getty Images)

The ATP has released an extraordinary statement condemning the Novak Djokovic-led Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) - a breakaway players' body trying to shake up the tennis world order.

Djokovic and Canadian player Vasek Pospisil sent shockwaves through the sport last year when they stepped down from their positions on the ATP player council and started the PTPA on the eve of the US Open.

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They said the PTPA is aimed at better protecting the interests of the players, but the move met staunch opposition from the tennis governing bodies.

Djokovic and Pospisil again fronted their fellow players ahead of Wimbledon this week, with next week's ATP board vote on a strategic plan proving to be the latest flashpoint.

The ambitious plan is primarily aimed at boosting revenue from media and television rights.

This week the PTPA named Adam Larry as executive director among other board appointments, adding that its goal remained to "create transparency and fairness throughout decision-making in professional tennis".

The ATP has since responded with a strongly-worded statement saying: "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."

PTPA wants ATP to delay vote on 30-year plan

Besides the ATP and the women's WTA, the sport is also governed by the International Tennis Federation and the four grand slam tournaments.

The ATP was set up by players in 1972 to represent the male athletes, but its board currently includes equal numbers of representatives of tournament owners.

This week the PTPA posed a series of questions to the ATP, demanding more clarity and transparency surrounding the plan - which is scheduled to take effect from 2023 - and formally asking the tour to delay voting before their concerns are addressed.

The ATP said the strategic plan could benefit players through strengthening big-ticket events, 50-50 profit sharing, increased prize money and bonus pools, improving tournament standards and providing long-term stability.

"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," Djokovic said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.

"Thirty years is a very long time and will have a lasting and profound effect on players today and for generations to come. We simply need transparency and answers to important questions."

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, pictured here at Wimbledon in 2019.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in 2019. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Federer and Nadal opposed to Djokovic's revolt

Djokovic has repeatedly stated that the PTPA wanted to co-exist with the sport's governing bodies, but has met opposition from fellow greats Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray.

The World No.1, who was the head of ATP's player council before the formation of the PTPA, said they have made multiple requests for a formal meeting with the men's governing body to discuss the issue.

"To be clear, we are not saying the 30-year plan or the ATP is bad, we just want more clarity," the Serbian said. "Until then, the vote must be delayed."

Last year, Nadal said the sport needed to stick together instead of dividing.

“The world is living a difficult and complicated situation," he said in August.

"I personally believe these are times to be calm and work all of us together in the same direction. It is time for unity, not for separation.

“These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united.

“We all, players, tournaments and governing bodies have to work together. We have a bigger problem and separation and disunion is definitely not the solution.”

Federer concurred, writing on Twitter: “I agree @RafaelNadal. These are uncertain and challenging times, but I believe it’s critical for us to stand united as players, and as a sport, to pave the best way forward.”

with Reuters

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