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.
Grigor Dimitrov Blames Poor Monte Carlo Performance On ‘Big Infection’
The 29-year-old reveals the reason behind his error-stricken performance at the Monte Carlo Country Club on Thursday.
Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov said he simply ‘didn’t play’ in his latest match at the Monte Carlo Masters after winning just two games against Rafael Nadal.
The world No.17 fell 6-1, 6-1, to the 20-time Grand Slam champion in less than an hour on Thursday. He won 48% of his first service points and 32% of his second, as he hit 32 unforced errors. A dismal performance from Dimitrov who had beaten Jan-Lennard Struff and Jeremy Chardy earlier in the tournament.
Whilst it was never going to be easy playing somebody of Nadal’s calibre, Dimitrov has revealed that he had been troubled by an issue away from the court. He has been suffering from a ‘big infection’ in his tooth which has had an impact on his preparation for the match.
“I’ve been struggling with a massive tooth problem for the past four or five days,” he said. “I have a big infection in my tooth. It’s been hard. I haven’t been able to sleep well or eat well or anything like that.’
“I was bearing it for a while this whole week.”
It is another case of bad luck for Dimitrov on the Tour this season. At the Australian Open he reached the quarter-finals in what was his best Grand Slam performance since the 2019 US Open. However, in his last eight showdown with Russia’s Aslan Karatsev he was hindered by a back injury.
“It’s straight to the doctor’s, unfortunately,” he commented on his tooth. “Very, very unpleasant moment. It is what it is.’
“At least I’m glad it happened on a home soil so I can go see my dentist and figure this problem as soon as possible.Hopefully it’s not too serious and I’ll be able to come back as soon as possible.”
Speaking in his press conference, Nadal said he ‘felt sorry’ for his opponent who ‘played a bad match.’ During the match the world No.3 wasn’t aware of Dimitrov’s problem but was told about it afterwards.
“I wish him all the best. He’s a great guy, a good friend. I just hope the situation is to improve as soon as possible,” he said.
Nadal, who is seeking a record 12th title in Monte Carlo, will play Russia’s Andrey Rublev next.
Dan Evans Fires Back At ‘No Manners’ Musetti
30-year-old Evans says he is not happy with recent comments the Italian has said about him.
British No.1 Dan Evans has branded fellow player Lorenzo Musetti ‘disrespectful’ after recording the most high-profile win of his career at the Monte Carlo Masters on Thursday.
The world No.33 stunned Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, in what is his first ever win over a member of the prestigious Big Three. A trio that consists of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. What is even more remarkable is that Evan’s victory took place on the clay. A surface which he hadn’t won a Tour match on since 2017 prior to this week.
Speaking to reporters following his win over the world No.1, Evans was questioned about what was the difference between his match against Musetti last week and his performance in Monte Carlo. Prompting the Brit to hit out at the Italian who is dubbed as one of the rising stars of the Tour.
“How he spoke last week was embarrassing,” Evans said. “Let’s not talk about Musetti in my press conference.
“Last week he said some things in the Italian press about me that was disrespectful.
Musetti, if he apologises, I will answer. He’s a good tennis player, but he’s got no manners.”
The fallout between the two started last week after Musetti won their match at the Sardegna Open. Saving four match points in the final tiebreaker en route to the victory. Afterwards, the 19-year-old accused his rival of disrespecting him on the court.
“There are respectful experienced players on the court,” he said. “Others like Evans, they try to use my youth to (win) matches.
“But it’s all experience for me. Evans disrespected me. I don’t want to be treated like a young man.”
Whilst the two tennis players are unlikely to be friends anytime soon, Evans did praise the recent performance of his rival. Musetti is the youngest player in the top 100 on the men’s Tour and is one of only two players aged 19. The other is compatriot Jannik Sinner.
“He played very well last week. I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t take the match points. It’s just tennis. Yeah, he could do with learning some manners.” He concluded.
Evans is through to the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament for the first time in his career. Awaiting him in the next round is 11th seed David Goffin who defeated Alexander Zverev in his third round match.
New Setback Forces Dominic Thiem Out Of Belgrade
The Austrian tennis star has written a blog post on his website titled ‘my knee hurts!”
Dominic’s Thiem’s return to the Tour has been postponed for a second time due to a physical problem which he recently visited a doctor about.
The US Open champion has confirmed that he is currently suffering from pain in his knee and has decided to pull out of next week’s Belgrade Open. An ATP 250 event which will be headlined by world No.1 Novak Djokovic. It is unclear as to what kind of injury Thiem is suffering from or when the pain started. Earlier this year he confirmed that he had been suffering from a long-standing foot issue which gives him intermittent pain. Although there is no indication that these are linked in anyway.
“2021 just doesn’t want to get going. Unfortunately I will have to cancel my start at next week’s tournament in Novak Djokovic’s hometown Belgrade,” Thiem wrote in a statement. “My knee hurts and I went to see a doctor. It is not a big issue but I need to take care of it. I am definitely not fit enough to play next week.”
Earlier this month Thiem delayed his expected return to the Tour at this week’s Monte Carlo Masters because he was ‘not 100% yet.’ In a blog post on his website the Austrian admitted that he had ‘a lot of work to do’ and ‘tough weeks’ ahead. Thiem hasn’t played a match since the Dubai Tennis Championships after deciding to take a break from the sport in order to reset himself.
The hope for the world No.4 is that he will be back on track and ready to play at the Madrid Open which will begin on April 30th with the ultimate goal remaining to be back to full fitness at the French Open. Thiem’s most successful Grand Slam where he has reached finals in 2018 and 2019.
“I want to be completely fit at the beginning of May and play proper tennis,” he states.
“There is something positive, though: Coach Nicolas Massu arrived in Austria yesterday, we are going to continue my program even though at the moment we have to be careful. In the meantime I have also been working on my physical fitness with sports scientist Mike Reinprecht.’
“There is no doubt, the big goal till the summer are the French Open – in Paris I must be at my best.”
So far this season Thiem has only won back-to-back matches in one out of four tournaments played. Doing so at the Australian Open where he reached the fourth round before losing to Grigor Dimitrov. Since then he has suffered second round losses in Doha and Dubai. His win-loss record for 2021 currently stands at 5-4.
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