“We’re moving forward and 80% of the Top 500 on the men’s side supports us” – Novak Djokovic on the PTPA and Naomi Osaka

The world No 1 shed some new light on the PTPA, including the backing of two unnamed business people, and gave his insights into the Naomi Osaka withdrawal

Djokovic_Roland-Garros_2021 AI / REUTERS / PANORAMIC

World No 1 Novak Djokovic threw some new light on the Professional Tennis Players Association – the organisation that he and Vasek Pospisil co-founded along with 60 other players last August – after his first-round victory at Roland-Garros on Tuesday.

Djokovic defeated American Tennys Sandgren 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to advance to set up a second-round showdown with Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas on Thursday.

Things on the PTPA have been relatively quiet after the initial launch announcement on the eve of the 2020 US Open. But Djokovic and his team have been working hard behind the scenes, as he revealed in his press conference.

“There were not two meetings, ” Djokovic responded to a question on the frequency of PTPA meetings since March. “There were much more meetings than two actually in the last several months. We did reach out to all the players in the top 500, top 350 singles, top 150 doubles on the men’s side, and we also are reaching out to the female tennis players. Things are going a little bit slower with the women’s side. But we are progressing. We are moving forward. We have some concrete things actually on the table right now.

“It’s inevitable, now it’s happening, and, you know, we’ve had so far over 75%, if I’m not mistaken, reaching 80% of the support from the 500 players on the men’s side that I mentioned; so top 350 singles, top 150 doubles. We have over 75% of them that are supporting us that have signed the document and agreed to be part of PTPA. So that’s great news. As I said, we are moving forward, and let’s see what is going to happen in the next couple months, but we will have definitely some changes and news to talk to you about.”

We have a couple of very wealthy and influential people, who are tennis fans from the United States and that are behind us

Novak Djokovic

The Serb went on to reveal that the PTPA now has the backing of two wealthy and influential people, whom he did not name, who are supporting the effort with their money and their expertise.

“We have a couple of very wealthy and influential people, successful people in business that are tennis fans that are from United States and that are behind us, supporting us financially, and also with their advices and consultations. They are participating in every conference call that we have. They are helping us create the structure and the foundation of PTPA that will be exactly what we imagine it to be, the association that will represent the players’ rights as best as possible.”

Djokovic further revealed that after initial discussions with the ATP Tour, the PTPA has decided to hold off from having further discussions until they have a more formal structure in place.

“We did have a few conversations with ATP, but until we set everything up, I think in terms of structure of and the legislation of PTPA, there is no reason to extend the talks with ATP for the moment, because we are constructing everything. So when we are ready, we will reach out and try to find a mutual language and common ground with everyone. As I mentioned before, PTPA, as a players’ organisation, needs to co-exist in the tennis ecosystem with the ATP, WTA, and all the other entities in sports and all the other institutions.”

I can understand Naomi Osaka very well, and I empathise with her, because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media

Novak Djokovic on Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal

One of the other burning topics during the first few days of the French Grand Slam has been Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal on Monday. Djokovic, who has often been subject to media scrutiny and criticism himself over the years and more so during the past year related to the Adria Tour, and the disqualification from the US Open, said that he fully empathised with Osaka’s decision and hopes she will be back on the tour soon.

“Look, I can understand her very well, and I empathise with her, because I was on the wrong edge of the sword in my career many times with media (smiling). I know how it feels. I support her. I think she was very brave to do that. I’m really sorry that she is going through painful times and suffering mentally, is what I have heard. I haven’t spoken to her. But it seems like she has been struggling. I wish her all the best. I hope she recovers. She’s very important player and brand for and person for our sport. So we need to have her back. This was, I must say, very bold decision from her side. But she knows how she feels best. If she needs to take time and reflect and just recharge, you know, that’s what she needed to do, and I respect it fully.”

Djokovic, who was fined $7,500 for skipping the mandatory press conference after he got defaulted at the US Open last year, revealed that he was not surprised that the French Tennis Federation imposed a fine on Osaka.

“Well, look, the Grand Slams are protecting themselves and their own business. Of course, they are going to follow the rules and they are going to, you know, make sure that you are complying. It’s not surprising to me that that was their reaction.”

Djokovic also highlighted the importance of the media in the sport, but at the same time, stated that with the growth of social media platforms, athletes now have the ability to communicate directly with their fans, which is something that Osaka and her generation are very accustomed to.

“I mean, you know, because we are kind of used to this environment and this kind of principles of us doing
interviews after every match and getting to answer questions majorly that are quite similar. But it’s part of our sport. It’s part of what we do. The media is important, without a doubt. You know, it’s allowing us to have the platform to communicate with our fans, but in a more traditional way.

“It used to be the only way how we can reach out to our fans, right, in the last five years or maybe ten years’s it’s not the case anymore. We have our own platforms, our own social media accounts through which we are able to communicate directly with fans. Naomi, she’s very young and she grew up with obviously with social media and ability to speak out through her channels.”

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