Djokovic, Pospisil To Form New Players Association

WASHINGTON, August 29, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

According to reporting by Daily Telegraph tennis correspondent Simon Briggs on Friday, there’s been a strong push for a player union coming from ATP Tour players who are in New York for the Western & Southern Open and the US Open. A letter was sent around by ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi calling for “any players advancing this matter while holding elected positions on the ATP player council” to stand down.

Briggs wrote on Twitter Friday he thought it was targeted at Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil, who both are on the ATP player council.

Late Friday night, New York Times tennis writer Ben Rothenberg broke the story wide open, reporting that top men’s players, led by Djokovic and Pospisil, are breaking away from ATP to form a players association, the Professional Tennis Players Association. Further, he reported that Djokovic, Pospisil, and John Isner were resigning from player council.

While it’s not clear whether the group will operate like a union, it was billed in such a manner to get players to join. It should be noted that women are not being included.

According to Rothenberg’s reporting:

“Frustrated by what they view as a lack of leverage in the sport of men’s tennis, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil are forming a breakaway body to represent the interests of male tennis players outside of the current structure of the Association of Tennis Professionals, and have resigned their leadership roles in the association’s player council.

“Pospisil, a Canadian ranked No. 92 in singles, announced his resignation on Twitter on Friday night, saying that within the current structure of the men’s tennis tour, ‘it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions made by our tour.’

“Djokovic, the president of the player council, and John Isner, the highest-ranked American men’s player, also resigned their positions, according to three people familiar with their decisions. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the resignations had not been made public.

“Many details about the new group remain vague beyond its name, the Professional Tennis Players Association, and its intention to represent men’s singles players in the top 500 and doubles players in the top 200.”

Tennis Channel’s Ted Robinson on Osaka

Tennis TourTalk reached out to longtime Tennis Channel commentator Ted Robinson on Friday to ask what he found remarkable about the stand Naomi Osaka took earlier this week in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the impact she’s had in becoming the conscience of tennis in speaking out against racial inequality and social injustice.

“Osaka’s stance was so impactful as it was an individual act,” said Robinson during an email interview while Osaka played her Western & Southern Open semifinal match against Elise Mertens, which she won 6-2, 7-6 (5) to reach Saturday’s final.

“There were no teammates to align with. She was willing to walk away from individual material gains,” he added.

“Her stance needs to be publicized, not in the ‘sales’ sense but rather a demonstration of thought, presence, and awareness from a 22-year-old.

Robinson believes the tennis world should be proud of the actions of many players – especially Osaka and Coco Gauff – during the COVID-19 pandemic. “[It’s] interesting that the leading lights have been Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff (for her speech in Florida), a pair of young women. It’s a wonderful sign for the WTA.”

Remembering BBC Commentator David Mercer

Thursday, on a day filled with so much tennis news to report – Naomi Osaka, US Open draw reveal – we were saddened to learn of the passing of one of the legends of BBC’s Wimbledon coverage, David Mercer, who died at age 70. Those of us in the U.S. didn’t get to listen to him often enough, but when we did, his commentary from Centre Court was marvelous to hear.

Remarkably, Mercer was a former tennis umpire who chaired the 1984 Wimbledon final between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Later, he was a part of the BBC’s Wimbledon commentary team for the past 35 years.

Mercer is the only person to have umpired a Wimbledon men’s singles final and commentated on them, both for radio and television.

“David Mercer has been one of the great voices of British broadcasting with his distinguished career stretching over 40 years, working on the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage for 35 of those years as well as umpiring at the highest level,” said BBC director of sport Barbara Slater.

“He was also a highly valued member of the BBC’s Olympic commentary team. He will be sorely missed and our thoughts are with his colleagues, family and friends.”

Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent, remembered his colleague during a virtual moment of remembrance before the start of the Western & Southern Open semifinals Friday morning. “I met him for the first time at Queen’s Club in 1991 and said, ‘If I were you, I would put some money on Michael Stich to win the title – and sure enough he won. … I think I speak for many when I say we’re going to miss his presence, his knowledge and also his chuckles.”

David Law, co-host of The Tennis Podcast, wrote on Twitter: “Very sad to hear the news that David Mercer has died. He was a tennis commentator I loved listening to before I worked in the sport, and was a generous colleague throughout the time we worked together at BT Sport over the last few years. Will be much missed.”

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