Tennis stars set for collision course over breakaway union
World No. 1 Djokovic sets up breakaway players' union despite Federer and Nadal's concerns
Novak Djokovic shrugged off the concerns of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and announced the formation of a new men's pro tennis players' association that promises to put him on a collision course with his two elite rivals.
Nadal and Federer called for "unity, not separation" after reports their long-time rival was spearheading a breakaway union of tennis professionals.
But after a meeting among players at the conclusion of the Western & Southern Open in New York - where Nadal and Federer were absent - Djokovic said the new group was launched.
"After today's successful meeting, we are excited to announce the beginning of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA)," he wrote on Instagram, posting a picture of several dozen players gathered on a tennis court at Flushing Meadows, where the US Open starts today.
"The first player-only association in tennis since 1972," he added.
Djokovic, who will be the favourite to win an 18th Grand Slam title at the US Open, had acknowledged that the group was a work in progress.
"We don't have all the answers right now. We are just trying to get a sense of how many players do really want to join this initiative," he said, adding that the new organisation and the ATP "can co-exist".
World No. 2 Nadal pleaded with Djokovic to rethink a breakaway. "The world is living a difficult and complicated situation. I personally believe these are times to be calm and work all of us together in the same direction," said the 19-time Major winner.
"It is time for unity, not for separation. These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united.
"We all, players, tournaments and governing bodies have to work together. We have a bigger problem and separation and disunion is definitely not the solution."
Federer, a 20-time Slam winner, quickly signalled his support for Nadal. "I agree @RafaelNadal," tweeted Federer.
"These are uncertain and challenging times, but I believe it's critical for us to stand united as players, and as a sport, to pave the best way forward."
Djokovic said he accepted the position of his "Big Three" rivals, but disagrees.
"Of course, I would love to have Roger and Rafa on board. Of course, I would love to have all the players on board," Djokovic said.
"But I understand. I truly understand that some of them have different opinions and they don't think the time is right. Again, I think the time is right."
Meanwhile, France's world No. 22 Benoit Paire has tested positive for Covid-19 and will have to pull out of the US Open, reported French sports daily L'Equipe.
Fellow French players Richard Gasquet, Adrian Mannarino, Gregoire Barrere and Edouard Roger Vasselin were also asked to self-isolate in their hotel rooms. - REUTERS