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Tennis-Djokovic-led players’ group on collision course with ATP over strategic plan

Tennis-Djokovic-led players' group on collision course with ATP over strategic plan

By Sudipto Ganguly

(Reuters) – Novak Djokovic’s breakaway players’ body appears to be on a collision course with the men’s tour after the world number one asked the ATP to delay a vote on a 30-year strategic plan to reform the sport.

Djokovic and Canadian Vasek Pospisil sent shockwaves through the sport last year when they stepped down from their positions on the ATP player council and started the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) on the eve of the U.S. Open.

The PTPA was aimed at better protecting the interests of the players, they said, but the move met staunch opposition from the tennis governing bodies.

A few days ahead of the start of Wimbledon, things have started heating up again between the ATP and the PTPA, with next week’s ATP board vote on a strategic plan proving to be the latest flashpoint.

The ambitious plan is primarily aimed at boosting revenue from media and television rights.

This week the PTPA named Adam Larry as executive director among other board appointments, adding that its goal remained to “create transparency and fairness throughout decision-making in professional tennis”.

The men’s tour responded with a strongly-worded statement saying: “The creation of a separate player entity provides a clear overlap, divides the players, and further fragments the sport.

“Fragmentation has been consistently identified as the single biggest threat to tennis’ growth potential by leading experts, from within and beyond sports, which is something the ATP is currently working to address through the Strategic Plan.”

MORE CLARITY

Besides the ATP and the women’s WTA, the sport is also governed by the International Tennis Federation and the four Grand Slams.

The ATP was set up by players in 1972 to represent the male athletes but its board currently includes equal numbers of representatives of tournament owners.

This week the PTPA posed a series of questions for the ATP, demanding more clarity and transparency surrounding the plan, which is scheduled to take effect from 2023, and formally asking the tour to delay voting before their concerns are addressed.

The ATP said the strategic plan could benefit players through strengthening big-ticket events, 50-50 profit sharing, increased prize money and bonus pools, improving tournament standards and providing long-term stability.

“We have repeatedly asked the ATP to delay the vote on their 30-year plan until the players understand how it will impact their health, wellness rights (digital and/or otherwise) and their ability to make fair wages,” Djokovic said in a statement on Twitter on Thursday.

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

Last year Djokovic repeatedly asserted that the PTPA wanted to co-exist with the sport’s governing bodies but has found Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray opposed to his move with the trio also part of the current ATP player council.

The 19-time Grand Slam winner, who was the head of ATP’s player council before the formation of the PTPA, said they have made multiple requests for a formal meeting with the men’s governing body to discuss the issue.

“To be clear, we are not saying the 30-year plan or the ATP is bad, we just want more clarity,” the Serbian said. “Until then, the vote must be delayed.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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