Even as a breakaway player body, the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) was established in the New York bubble on Saturday, the ATP – men’s governing body—flexed its muscle by appointing the leading players of his generation – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal—on its Player Council.
On Thursday, World No 1 Novak Djokovic had resigned from his post as the ATP Player Council president and was in the process of putting the final touches on the new player body. Vasek Pospisil and John Isner also stepped down from the Council to join the new association.
After today’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/070TRKZ4xG
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) August 29, 2020
After the Serb clinched the Cincinnati Masters title on Saturday, and following a meeting with other players, the Djokovic-led PTPA was officially formed.
“After today’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,” Canada’s Posipisil tweeted.
The new player body is meant to represent the player interests better. But the exact details on how and why are still sketchy. Djokovic and Pospisil will be the ‘initial co-presidents’ for the term of two years but the association will eventually be run by a board of nine players.
“We don’t have answers to all the questions right now,” Djokovic said after beating Milos Raonic 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final of the Western & Southern Open.
“We don’t know yet who will be the people who will represent the players. We have a broad outline on what, the platform the association will look like.
“This is not a union. This is player association. So we are not calling for boycotts. We are not forming parallel tours. I have seen a lot of different speculations in the media, and people coming out with just various things that we will do, which is, in a way, is expected, because it’s a big thing, of course.”
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) August 29, 2020
Shortly after the news of the rebel player body emerged, the ATP and ITF released a joint statement asking for unity during these troubled times.
“It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division; a time to consider and act in the best interests of the sport, now and for the future. When we work together, we are a stronger sport.”
That is the stand Federer and Nadal also took. Apart from chiming their opinion on social media, six players – Federer, Nadal, Jurgen Melzer, Kevin Anderson, Sam Querrey and Bruno Soares – also signed a letter urging players to show more caution before rushing into any decisions.
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.
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) August 29, 2020
“It undermines our new management’s ability to achieve their vision for the sport,” the letter read. “A new Player Association cannot co-exist with the ATP.”
They also said the PTPA document had not answered a lot of questions, like, “What happens if tournaments go against us?”; “What is the contingency plan to protect us if this goes ahead and badly?”; “Who is taking responsibility for any fallout both with our careers, income and negativity?”
Djokovic added, “Of course I would love to have Roger and Rafa on board. Of course I would love to have all the players on board. But I understand. I truly understand that, you know, some of them have different opinions and they don’t think the time is right.”
— Daniel Vallverdu (@danielvallverdu) August 29, 2020
Andy Murray has also refused to sign up for the new player body, asking why there is no women’s representation on it.“I feel like that would send a much more powerful message, personally, if the WTA were on board with it as well,” Murray said. “That’s not currently the case. If those things changed in the future, it’s something that I would certainly, certainly consider.”
The ATP, meanwhile, has elected Federer and Nadal on its Player Council. This is what the new Player Council looks like:
- 1-50 Singles: Rafael Nadal
• 1-100 Doubles: Jurgen Melzer
• At Large: Roger Federer
The battle lines are drawn.