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Djokovic: Why PTPA Must Live

By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Missing two of the four Grand Slams in 2022 infuses Novak Djokovic with multiple major ambition this season.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion is chasing history and aiming to reform the sport.

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The top-seeded Serbian swept Frenchman Constant Lestienne 6-3, 6-2 in a sharp Adelaide International opener.

It came after Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil dropped a three-set doubles match.

Off court, Djokovic says their partnership is making progress. The pair founded The Professional Tennis Players Association with the aim of giving pro players total representation.

Tennis Express

Djokovic says despite the fact the PTPA "were not accepted" by the ATP, WTA and Grand Slams, the organization is gaining traction and financial backing and "needs to live."

"I think there's a lot of legal challenges along the way," Djokovic told the media in Adelaide. "We managed to overcome all those challenges, and we are gathering the right team of people with advisory board, people that are going to help with financing the association, of course people from the tennis world that will help us establish ourselves within the ecosystem, which I think is very important as we were not accepted and embraced by Grand Slams, ATP nor WTA, so it makes things difficult for us, but this association needs to live."

The PTPA is vital because it's solely devoted to giving players a voice in the decision-making process that impacts the sport, Djokovic said.

"It needs to be there because players don't have 100 percent representation in the tennis world, unfortunately," Djokovic said. "With the association they have that. Hopefully more players will be showing the willingness to understand what PTPA can do for them.

"It's a process that will take a longer time just because we are not getting credibility from other governing bodies, so it will take longer, but we'll stay there, and it's something that hopefully can stay for many decades to come."

While the PTPA does have the support of several star players it does not have a voice that's recognized by the game's governing bodies.

Last spring, Djokovic criticized the ATP for shutting the PTPA out of meetings about the ongoing imbroglio between the ATP and WTA Tours and Wimbledon over the grass-court Grand Slam's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players.

That ban was Wimbledon's condemnation of Russia's unprovoked invasion of neighboring Ukraine and prompted the ATP and WTA Tours to strip Wimbledon of ranking points—a decision opposed by Djokovic and the PTPA.

That disconnect compelled Djokovic, who is friendly with ATP President Andrea Gaudenzi, to brand the ATP broken and charge it "has failed players so many times."

In short, the PTPA wants a seat at the decision-making table and the ATP has shown the group the door. Djokovic charged the Tour continues to mute the voices of players and points to lack of wide-spread consultation with players before its Wimbledon decision as a prime example.

"It's the council of ATP that is within the structure, this representing body of players, and that's how it's been for decades," Djokovic said before Wimbledon. "I don't think that's the best system that we have. I just think the system has failed players so many times, so many times, and that's the reason why PTPA needs to exist, because when it comes down to this kind of big decisions, you know, a lot of the players' voices are not heard enough.

"Unfortunately, you know, within ATP you have 50/50 percent of representation between players and tournaments. So you are never going to have 100 percent players' interest in place."

Photo credit: Sue McKay/Getty