What is Novak Djokovic PTPA? Explaining the first player only association in tennis since 1972

With a growing fanbase and sponsorship that generates more than $2 billion annually, it is surprising that pro tennis players ranked outside the top 100 are not making enough money to offset the enormous cost of travel, coaching and training. This gross inequality has led Novak Djokovic and other tennis stars to seek for proper promotion and interest for every tennis player.

Current No. 1 Novak Djokovic and ATP player Vasek Pospisil created the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) in 2020 with a mission to fight for the rights of tennis players. It was announced with a letter to their ATP peers, and then with a photo, featuring several dozens of players who supported the initiative.

What is Novak Djokovic PTPA?

Professional Tennis Players Association or PTPA was officially founded by Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil in August of 2020 to defend the interest of female and male tennis players.  It is the first tennis union made up entirely for players since 1972. It is an association for the defence of interests of professional players, distinct from the ATP.

Its mission is to represent the top 500 singles players in men’s tennis and the top 200 doubles players. The PTPA is of the mindset that the ATP represents the interests of the tour as a whole and a tournament organizer.

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic kisses the Rookwood Cup after the victory over Carlos Alcaraz (ESP) during the menÕs singles final of the Western and Southern Open tennis tournament at Lindner Family Tennis Center. (via USA TODAY)

“I personally am not here with PTPA sitting with you because I want more money for myself,” said Novak Djokovic, “That’s not the case. I’m fine for this life and many other lives. We all definitely want to see a change at the base level because the 150th player on the planet struggles and often has to travel without a coach. People don’t realize how expensive this sport is.”

While professional team sport leagues such as the NBA, WNBA and NFL have well-established player unions representing their collective best interests, it’s more complicated for individual sports, especially one like tennis, which has multiple stakeholders with differing, and occasionally opposing objectives.

In addition to the ATP and the WTA, the ITF and all four of the Grand Slams have a say and a vested interest in the sport. According to Pospisil, Novak Djokovic and others affiliated with the PTPA that divided landscape, has made their organization a threat to the status quo.

Novak Djokovic’s players’ association grows three years after establishment

The PTPA has made significant stride since 2020. It has onboarded 250+ players since January and lists John Isner, the recently retired Tunisian star, Ons Jabeur, former American player Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Pospisil among its executive committee members.

“The PTPA is definitely making huge strides”, Novak Djokovic told ESPN in a recent interview. “And we’re making sure that the players’ voices and needs are heard. I mean for me personally, knowing that there’s now a serious team of people in our association working day and night tirelessly to build this association, [to] make sure players have a better livelihood from tennis, is something that relaxes me. And I think the future is bright.”

“Tennis has an incredible tradition and we are very proud of it. But can we be at a better place collectively? Absolutely. We have future potential and players are a very integral part of it. And without players there’s no show. And we’ve been trying to obviously position ourselves in the ecosystem in such a way that will give more power and more representation to the players”, Novak Djokovic added.

The organization now has a full-time staff of 12 and hired Nassar Ahmed, the former president of NFL Players Inc., as the new executive director in August 2022. The organization focuses on a wide range of issues players face on a daily basis, including advocating for a different pay structure, providing assistance with understanding and appealing various fines, and helping with the never-ending travel issues that frequently arise in a global sport.

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SZ Desk

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