Novak Djokovic’s bid to set up a breakaway player’s association is not progressing as smoothly as no doubt he and his lieutenant Vasek Pospisil would have hoped for with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, as well as Andy Murray, coming out against it.
I feel like the current management that are in place 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. Andy Murray
He has marked the occasion of their first meeting by posting a photo a picture of some 60 players on court and the message: “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.”
A list of the players who have signed up could prove interesting reading but for now, three of the more influential players are holding back their support for the move.
“I won’t be signing it today,” three-times Grand Slam winner Murray said ahead of the U.S. Open and has urged fellow athletes to give the governing body, the ATP, more time to tackle their concerns.
“I’m not totally against a player union, player association, but right now there’s a couple of things: One is I feel like the current management that are in place should be given some time to implement their vision,” he told reporters.
“Whether that works out, or not, would potentially influence me in the future as to which way I would go.”
Murray also opposed the PTPA on the grounds that is a body only for male athletes, since he believed a combined entity with women players would send “a much more powerful message”.
Belgian Kim Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam singles winner said she was a little surprised to hear about the PTPA but wanted to know more about it.
Nadal meanwhile called for calm and unity declaring on Twitter: “The world is living a difficult and complicated situation.
“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 tweeted his support of Nadal’s comments: “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.”
The two of course are members of the Player Council which until his resignation in the last 24-hours or so, was presided over by Djokovic and included Pospisil and John Isner, both of whom have also stepped down to set up this new players’ union.
Speaking to the Guardian British No.1 Dan Evans echoed their comments.
“I’ve received the emails on the player union,” he said on Saturday. “I think now is horrible timing to be talking about that sort of thing.
“For what it’s worth, I think the ATP do a great job for us and I won’t be signing the sheet of paper they want.
“I had a conversation yesterday with someone in the changing room, and I played devil’s advocate on the ATP side. It wasn’t taken very well.
“Those people who think the union should [happen] are set on it, and I must say they are quite passive-aggressive towards anyone who doesn’t want to be involved in it. It is all about having a vote, but it seems that, if they don’t like it, they don’t like you very much.
“I don’t understand what the vote is, what are they getting in power for. They have just made a new group. But what do they do? It’s not like they have any standing in the game. If the top 10 players don’t sign, are they not going to play because of the [new] union? It is not really a vote. It is signing a piece of paper that doesn’t really stand for much.”
And that is perhaps the real question which needs to be answered for, as Simon Briggs points out in the Sunday Telegraph today, the group will have no teeth. “Strictly speaking,” he writes, “this is an association, rather than a union, and according to antitrust law, it is illegal for a group of independent contractors to threaten a boycott or strike.”
All they can do is discuss and put forward their suggestions to the ATP which remains the purpose of the Player Council.
Notwithstanding that, the move has certainly caused ripples. The ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has already, prior to their meeting, circulated a letter to all players calling for unity. Now the All England Club has called for the same. “It is time for even greater collaboration, not division” their statement read.
Meanwhile the support for Djokovic’s latest political manoeuvre is being questioned by other higher ranked players. Daniil Medvedev, the world No.5 wants more information and time to make his decision while Stefanos Tsitsipas ranked one spot below the Russian, said, “I haven’t been involved at all, like zero. I have nothing to do with this,” adding rather meaningfully, “I don’t even know what they’re talking about. I’m not following.”