A schism inside the ATP: Djokovic and Pospisil are founding their own independent association - UBITENNIS
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A schism inside the ATP: Djokovic and Pospisil are founding their own independent association

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It was widely known that the situation at the top of the male tennis pyramid was tense. However, no one could have expected such a break in the midst of the worst crisis in the history of professional tennis. According to The New York Times, Vasek Pospisil, Novak Djokovic, and John Isner resigned from their roles as members of the Players Council in order to create a new players’ association that would compete with the ATP to get more favourable working conditions for the category.

At the 2019 Australian Open, Djokovic presented his colleagues with a draft for the creation of such an organization, devised by an American firm, Norton Rose Fullbright. A year later, however, the Serbian himself admitted that they couldn’t go forward with their project due to the complexity of the Tour’s structure, which is made of players who reside in dozens of different countries with the most disparate jurisdictions, and the same goes for the tournaments – these elements made the creation of a definite legal entity close to impossible.

However, it seems like the puzzle was finally cracked. According to a letter that the journalists of The New York Times could get their hands on, all players have been invited to promptly join the new association, whose name should be “Professional Tennis Players Association”, and to gather at Flushing Meadows on Saturday night to get a group picture of all participants to the bona fide secession.

The way this is happening does bear some historical echoing to how the ATP Tour was founded in 1988. The players met for the now legendary “Parking Lot Press Conference”, also at Flushing Meadows, in order to snatch control of the circuit from the Pro Council – the new tour would start in 1990.

The aim of the association is not to replace the ATP, but to provide players with a self-governance structure that is independent from the ATP and is directly responsive to player-members’ needs and concerns,” according to the letter. Membership should be offered to the top 500 singles players as well as to the top 200 doubles specialists.

The players have elected not speak publicly for the time being, and the same goes for the ATP officials, whose absence from New York drew criticism from several players, including Gilles Simon and Reilly Opelka. Also according to the Times, ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi has replied to the letter by admonishing the players that a schism is “not to take lightly”, as it could be a threat to the survival of the ATP and of the tour themselves.

Therefore, he stated that the association would get no official recognition from the tournaments, jeopardising the current privileges that players enjoy: “You have what other athletes in other sports would strive for — a seat at the boardroom table. That is what players fought for in the creation of the ATP Tour. It makes no sense why you would be better served by shifting your role from the inside to the outside of the governance structure.” He concluded by adding: “Our battle is not with each other. Now, more than ever, is the time for unity and collaboration.”

Anyway, so far Pospisil is the sole individual who has made public his resolve to resign from his role in the Players Council, as can be seen in the picture below:

Djokovic and Isner haven’t officially quit yet, even though Gaudenzi is reportedly pushing for them to do so, as he doesn’t see their roles for two competing unions as compatible. Milos Raonic told The New York Times that he will join the new associations, as he wasn’t satisfied with Gaudenzi’s leadership throughout the tour’s hiatus.

Once more, the move doesn’t take into consideration the presence of the WTA Tour. A potential merger with the ATP Tour has been rumoured for months, and it would allegedly be an attempt to give a more cohesive structuring to the game. Actually, as The Daily Telegraph’s Simon Briggs reports, the overture to the WTA might have been a decisive element in accelerating the creation of a new union, since some of the male players feel that a merger would endanger their bottom-lines.

It seems clear, as a matter of fact, that the WTA would strive for an even revenue split, while at the moment the ATP is 8-10 times bigger than the WTA from structural and financial standpoints. Specifically, the difference is starking when it comes to TV deals for the most prized events, i.e. the ATP Tour’s Masters 1000 events and the WTA Tour’s Premier Mandatory and Premier 5 ones. According to internal sources, the the men’s tournaments draw profits that are six times as big as the women’s.

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Daniil Medvedev Targets French Open Breakthrough After Rome Disappointment

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Daniil Medvedev believes there will be more title contenders at the French Open than previous editions with the Russian hoping to be one of them. 

The world No.4 heads into the Grand Slam after what has been a mixed clay swing. Medvedev suffered a third round defeat in Monte Carlo before bouncing back in Madrid where he reached the quarter-finals before retiring from his match with a minor injury. Meanwhile, at this week’s Italian Open, his title defence came to an end in the fourth round on Tuesday when he fell 6-1, 6-4, to Tommy Paul. 

“Mentally I had to be much better,” Medvedev said of his latest performance.
“I started to calm myself down and focus on the match only at the end of the match, and it was too late. I had to do better. I was expecting myself to play better.’
“It’s disappointing, but that’s how sport is. You lose and you go for the next tournament, which is a pretty important one.” He added. 

28-year-old Medvedev recently stated that he is seeing improvements in his game when it comes to playing on the clay. A surface which he has struggled on during stages of his career. Out of the 38 ATP Finals he has contested, only two of those were on the clay. Barcelona in 2019 when he finished runner-up and Rome last year which he won. 

As for the French Open, he has lost in the first round on five out of seven appearances. But did reach the quarter-finals in 2021 and the last 16 the following year. So could 2024 be his year?

“Now it’s maybe a little bit more open than it was ever before,” he said of this year’s event. 
“Good for me, too, because usually in Roland Garros I don’t play that well. The more open it is, the better it is for me.”

All of the top three players on the men’s tour are currently experiencing problems. Novak Djokovic crashed out of the Italian Open and recently underwent a medical assessment after getting hit in the head by a bottle in a freak accident. Jannik Sinner is reportedly on the verge of withdrawing from the French Open due to a hip issue and Carlos Alcaraz has been hindered by a forearm injury in recent weeks. 

“I’m feeling much better on clay,” Medvedev commented. “What is tough for me on clay sometimes is getting used to conditions. Every court – in every tournament in the world – is a bit different.
“On hard courts it’s the same: every court is different. On hard courts I have this ability to kind of quite fast get used to it. On clay, I need more time.”

Medvedev aims to become only the second Russian man in history to win the French Open after Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1996. The tournament will begin a week on Sunday. 

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Says Expanded Masters Events ‘Playing A Massive Role’ In Player Injuries

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Credit Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis

Stefanos Tsitsipas has slammed the decision to extend the length of Masters 1000 tournaments to two weeks by warning that more injuries could occur in the future as a result. 

This week’s Rome Masters is taking place without two out of the world’s top three players. Jannik Sinner pulled out of his home event due to a hip injury and Carlos Alcaraz has been troubled by a forearm issue in recent weeks. Other players missing from the draw include Tomas Machac (Illness), Ugo Humbert (Left Knee) and Stan Wawrinka (Right Wrist). 

The tournament is taking place immediately after the Madrid Open which is also a Masters event that has been expanded to a two-week format in recent years. Supporters of the move argue that a bigger draw provides lower-ranked players with more opportunities to play in these events whilst others will have a day off between matches. 

However, world No.8 Tsitsipas isn’t completely happy with the schedule which he openly criticised on Monday following his 6-2, 7-6(1), win over Cameron Norrie. The Greek has won 12 out of 14 matches played on clay so far this season. 

“It’s a type of thing that hurt the sport a little bit, to have these types of things happen to the highest of the players,” Tsitsipas commented on his rival’s injuries.
“Without them, the show is not kind of the same. You have obviously the guys behind them (in the rankings). These kinds of tournaments deserve names like this to be playing and have the opportunity to play in front of these big stadiums and crowds.
“I’ve spoken about the fact that the schedule has a big toll on our bodies. It starts from the mental side, and it follows to the physical side. The extension of the days in the Masters 1000s I think plays a massive role and contributes a lot to the fact that these players are getting injured.”

The ATP’s extended format is set to be applied to seven out of the nine Masters 1000 tournaments from 2025. The only two yet to make or plan for such changes are Monte Carlo and Paris. However, Tsitsipas has called for changes to be made to the schedule.

“It was perhaps already a lot the way it was before with the seven-day events. Adding more days to that, well, you got to be some type of superhero to be consistent back-to-back 10 days in each event getting to the very end of it.” He commented.
“It’s not a very easy thing to do. Some people need to try it first to get an understanding and how it is to pull that off. Then they should make decisions based on that.
“I think this is not going to be the first time we see these types of things (player injuries). If these types of things continue with the same schedule not being adjusted or customized to the needs of the players, we might see more of these things occur in the future.”

It is not the first time a player has raised concerns about the extended format. Alexander Zverev previously said that the schedule is a disadvantage for the top players. Meanwhile, on the women’s Tour Caroline Garcia has criticised the move to expand WTA 1000 tournaments whilst Maria Sakkari said achieving the Madrid-Rome double has become harder to do

On the other hand, Daniil Medvedev has spoken in favour of the new format and describes injuries on the Tour as ‘part of the sport.’ The former US Open believes the issue is related to the quick surface changes players face and not the duration of tournaments. 

Tsitsipas will play Alex de Minaur in the fourth round of the Italian Open on Tuesday. 

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Novak Djokovic To Undergo Medical Check After Rome Thrashing, Bottle Incident

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Novak Djokovic – ATP Roma 2024 (foto: Francesca Micheli/Ubitennis)

Novak Djokovic has indicated that he will speak to doctors following his lacklustre performance at the Italian Open where he crashed out in straight sets. 

The five-time champion was far from his best against Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo as he struggled to generate any rhythm in his tennis or a single break point opportunity. Djokovic’s below-par performance caught many off guard, including the tennis player himself who admitted afterwards that he was ‘completely off’ his game. 

Trying to find the reason behind his latest performance, the world No.1 isn’t ruling out the possibility that it might be linked to an incident that took place at the tournament two days ago. Following his win over France’s Corentin Moutet, Djokovic suffered a blow to his head after a fan accidentally dropped a metal bottle from the stands. Immediately afterwards, he experienced nausea, dizziness and bleeding for up to an hour but was checked by medical officials.

“I don’t know, to be honest. I have to check that.” Djokovic replied when asked if the incident affected his form on Sunday.
“Training was different. I was going for kind of easy training yesterday. I didn’t feel anything, but I also didn’t feel the same.
“Today under high stress, it was quite bad – not in terms of pain, but in terms of this balance. Just no coordination. Completely different player from what it was two nights ago.
“It could be. I don’t know. I have to do medical checkups and see what’s going on. “

The tennis star said he managed to sleep fine after his head blow but did experience headaches. He looked to be in good spirits the day after it happened and even turned up to practice in Rome wearing a safety helmet.

Djokovic’s concerns come two weeks before the start of the French Open where he is seeking a record 25th Major title. He will undoubtedly be one of the contenders for glory but admits there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the coming days. 

“Everything needs to be better in order for me to have at least a chance to win it,” he said.
“The way I felt on the court today was just completely like a different player entered into my shoes. Just no rhythm, no tempo, and no balance whatsoever on any shot.
“It’s a bit concerning.”

The French Open will begin on Sunday 26th May. 

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