Donald Dell, one of the Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) founders, says he supports Novak Djokovic’s breakaway player’s organization, but that the two organizations must collaborate for the sake of the sport.
Dell, a former player, co-founded the ATP, the current governing body of men’s professional tennis, in 1972 with Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale.
The organization was formed to protect the interests of players, and it established a ranking system to determine tournament entries, a drug testing program, and a pension fund for players.
It was also the driving force behind the establishment of the current ATP Tour. However, in 2020, Djokovic and Canadian Vasek Pospisil announced the formation of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), a player’s organization that will work alongside the ATP and provide players with a self-governance structure.
The PTPA describes itself as a “not-for-profit corporation that addresses player issues and influences fair change in the professional tennis business.”
It believes that the ATP represents the interests of the entire tour as well as tournament organizers, and that players no longer have a strong enough voice. According to Tennis Majors, one of its main goals is to change the “distribution of income” on the men’s tour so that lower-ranked players can earn more money.
The PTPA’s formation drew widespread condemnation, including from a number of top-ranked men’s players and the ATP, which vowed to do “everything in its power” to prevent the group from “dividing and fragmenting” tennis.
Djokovic and Pospisil were also chastised for failing to include female players in their initial plans.
Despite the opposition, the PTPA claims to have more than 500 members as of June 2021, including approximately 200 women. Dell, who is no longer involved with the ATP, says he supports the PTPA, but that the two organizations must work together to avoid a schism within the sport.
“I’m not at all opposed to the PTPA,” Dell told Insider. “However, if I were Djokovic’s advisor, I would advise him to meet with Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the ATP, and the two groups should negotiate and compromise.” Djokovic should work hard to fix some of the issues, which could have a big impact on improving the conditions for players.”
“The stronger the PTPA becomes, the better equipped they will be to sit down and negotiate real important reforms that they felt were important to their ATP membership,” he added. “I don’t think the PTPA can compete directly with the tour board group today because they have a lot more money and a lot more people servicing the game all over the world.” “I would love to see them be successful and strong enough to renegotiate new terms and conditions with the tour board, which would help strengthen the game.”
Dell says the PTPA still faces two major roadblocks if it wants to gain enough traction to negotiate with the ATP, as he suggests. The first step is for a big-name player other than Djokovic to publicly support the organization, which has yet to happen.
“If you notice, none of the top players have agreed to join the PTPA, and you don’t hear any of the top 10 players saying, ‘I’m joining. It’s a great idea,'” Dell explained.
“The top 25 players are all making a lot of money playing tennis, which was the goal and the goal when the ATP started, and they don’t want to ruin a good thing.”
The second consideration is the scope of the PTPA’s plans. According to Dell, the group wishes to distribute prize money to a greater number of players than is financially feasible.