Novak Djokovic at odds with ATP over vote on 30-year strategic plan

Not long before the start of Wimbledon, tension is rising again in professional tennis as the players’ association founded by Novak Djokovic, the world No 1, is at odds with the Association of Tennis Professionals after advocating to delay the imminent vote on the ATP’s proposed strategic plan.

Ten months after Djokovic and the 66th-ranked Vasek Pospisil led a group of players to form the Professional Tennis Players Association, the association has revealed a more formal structure. It has announced a new website, a new advisory board and a communications team. The PTPA has also received support from the National Hockey League Players’ Association and the Major League Soccer Players’ Association.

The PTPA, based in Canada, will be led by the executive director Adam Larry, who formerly worked with the NHLPA. The advisory board includes the prominent investor Bill Ackman, founding chief executive of Pershing Square Capital Management, and Rebecca MacDonald, the founder and executive chair of Just Energy Group Inc.

Djokovic and Pospisil have frequently criticised conflicts of interest within the ATP and its governance structure at large. They have also advocated for lower-ranked players to receive more money from the tennis ecosystem. During this week’s launch, however, the PTPA has focused on delaying an imminent vote on the ATP strategic plan headed by the ATP chief executive Andrea Gaudenzi.

Since his appointment as CEO in 2020, Gaudenzi has championed the ATP’s current plan to boost revenue by aggregating digital rights under the same company, ATP Media. The ATP says that its proposed plan, which would come into effect in 2023, would benefit the players through increased prize money, 50-50 profit sharing and full transparency of audited tournament financials.

The PTPA, which styles itself as being “created by the players for the players”, has criticised the plan as vague and requested more transparency for players. On their website, the association has published a series of questions, asserting the need for more clarity regarding the 30-year plan.

“Thirty years is a very long time and will have a lasting and profound effect on players today and for generations to come,” said Djokovic in a statement. “We simply need transparency and answers to important questions.”

Their move has been severely criticised by the ATP, which accused the PTPA of dividing players and further fragmenting the sport. “The creation of a separate player entity provides a clear overlap, divides the players, and further fragments the sport,” the ATP said.

“Fragmentation has been consistently identified as the single biggest threat to tennis’s growth potential by leading experts from within and beyond sports, which is something the ATP is working to address through the Strategic Plan, as well as through the new T-7 working group, with enhanced collaboration with the WTA, grand slams and ITF.”

“We also take this opportunity to highlight the numerous benefits associated with players being in good standing with ATP, including annual pension contributions, travel grants, insurance cover, bonus pool payments, player and medical services, and more. ATP will continue to do everything in its powers to protect the interest of its members, both players and tournaments, and the many livelihoods that the Tour supports.”

Since Djokovic, Pospisil and dozens of male players congregated on an outside court in Flushing Meadows before the US Open in August, tension between the PTPA and ATP has been constant. The ATP has frequently attempted to portray the group as divisive and injurious to the tour. Djokovic and Pospisil resigned from the player council in August and then later criticised an ATP rule that barred Djokovic from running for the council due to his role in the PTPA.

At the Miami Open in March, Pospisil publicly criticised Gaudenzi during an on-court outburst a day after the pair spoke at a meeting between ATP players and officials.

The proposed association was criticised in August due to the perceived vagueness of their aims and the absence of female players during their initial meetings. The PTPA now says that the association is currently open to top 350 singles players and 150-ranked doubles players, both male and female.

Reaction to the PTPA among players has been split. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal previously exchanged comments on Twitter calling for unity, however Djokovic said earlier in June that support for the PTPA was up to 75% among top-500 male players.


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