If Novak Djokovic still wonders why he is not popular amongst his peers, one only has to look at the ill-timed and hugely unpopular move he has spearheaded to create a new player association during a time when so many are calling for unity and collaboration, and which pointedly does not involve the women players.
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. Andy Murray
2020 has been unkind to tennis, with wildfires threatening the Australian Open and a worldwide coronavirus pandemic suspending both tours for 5 long months.
The French Open postponed from its May dates until late September, while Wimbledon cancelled, insured against loss from a pandemic, and the US Open has fought against the odds to play under testing and unprecedented conditions.
In the West Virginia mountains, World TeamTennis was held with due care and it worked well, but the exhibition series in the Balkans, another of Djokovic’s ill-conceived ideas, resulted in the World No 1, Grigor Dimitrov and Goran Ivanisivic, and others, all testing positive for COVID-19.
Indicative of the current deep divide, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Kevin Anderson, Sam Querrey and Bruno Soares, to name but a few, are opposed to the formation of a new body.
“I won’t be signing it today,” Murray said. “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.
“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.”
So what has happened to the talks between the ATP and WTA about a possible merger?
These remain under wraps, probably because little progress was being made behind the scenes, not just because it would be a complicated marriage but also since both tours are struggling to stay afloat.
The collaboration, however, displayed by all the governing bodies has been obvious in the manner through which the tours have restarted with joint health protocols in place.
That some tournaments will inevitably go to the wall, and prize money purses will have to shrink is simply a reflection of what is happening in the real world as businesses go under and unemployment sky-rockets.
Djokovic and his cohort’s insensitivity is mind boggling, that of multi-millionaires wanting an even bigger slice of a pie that is now bound to diminish.
The ATP, WTA, ITF and all four grand slams issued a joint statement, stating that now is the time for ‘greater collaboration’.
The message, published on Wimbledon’s website, reads: “The unprecedented challenge presented by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our sport, and our way of life, in ways that we could not have imagined. Our thoughts continue to be with all those affected around the world.
“To address this extraordinary crisis, our sport and many within it – the players, coaches, administrators, officials, partners, broadcasters – have come together.
“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.
“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.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that our sport emerges from this crisis with strong foundations on which we can build.
“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.”
Other than endorsing the statement, the WTA has yet to make further comment.
With all this sizzling away inside the USTA bubble ahead of the US Open starting on Monday, fans must be wondering what on earth is going on, both on and off the court.