Divisions in men's tennis widened Saturday with the formal presentation of the Professional Tennis Players Association, a player group that is breaking away from the Association of Tennis Professionals.
Canadian player Vasek Pospisil tweeted a photo of PTPA members standing on a court at Flushing Meadows in New York, site of the 2020 U.S. Open, which is scheduled to begin Monday.
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
Pospisil and ATP world No. 1 men's player Novak Djokovic are leading the PTPA effort as co-presidents. Djokovic resigned as president of the ATP Player Council and Pospisil resigned as the ATP representative for players ranked 51-100.
Pospisil says he wants players to have more influence on decision-making by the ATP Tour.
"It has become clear that, as a player council member within the current structure of the ATP, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions made by our tour," Pospisil said Friday in announcing his resignation.
After receiving pushback to his Saturday announcement, Pospisil tweeted that division was not the PTPA's aim.
The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) did not emerge to be combative, to disrupt, or to cause any issues within or outside the tennis tour. Simply to unify the players, have our voices heard & have an impact on decisions being made that effect our lives & livelihoods— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) August 30, 2020
While Djokovic is adding clout to the new group, he has been unable to bring along fellow superstars Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. They said Saturday that now is not the time for a move that could create divisions in tennis.
"The world is living a difficult and complicated situation," Nadal wrote on Twitter. "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."
Federer agreed, writing, "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."
Nadal and Federer are sitting out this year's U.S. Open. Federer is recovering from knee surgery and Nadal is concerned about international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
Andy Murray, the other member of men's tennis' "Big Four," needs to see more before committing to the PTPA.
"I'm not totally against a player union, or players' association, but right now there's a couple of things," he told The Guardian. "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."
UPDATE: Pospisil responded Sunday on Twitter to the criticism.
Regarding the involvement of women in the PTPA; there is active dialogue with the women’s side. We recognize the importance of women’s tennis and their involvement. This should be evident by the separate movement that started last year where we had suppprt from over 70 of the top— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) August 30, 2020
Djokovic last June formed an independent circuit, the Adria Tour, in Croatia while tennis was on hiatus because of COVID-19. The tour of charity matches with crowds in attendance ended abruptly when Grigor Dimitrov tested positive for the virus. Borna Coric and Viktor Troick later tested positive as well, as did Djokovic and his wife. Djokovic said his critics were engaging in something resembling a "witch hunt."
Material from Omnisport was used in this report.