Nadal, Federer defy Djokovic in call for ‘unity, not separation’

Roger Federer (left) and Rafael Nadal have pleaded with Djokovic to rethink the breakaway from ATP. (AFP pic)

PARIS: Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were on a collision course with Novak Djokovic on Saturday, calling for “unity, not separation” after their long-time rival superstar spearheaded a breakaway union of professional tennis players.

The New York Times claimed that world No 1 Djokovic is expected to resign as president of the ATP players’ council and help form the PTPA (Professional Tennis Players Association).

“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. Then we will take it from there,” Djokovic said Saturday after winning the ATP Western & Southern Open in New York.

“ATP and hopefully this player association, if we manage to formalise it, can co-exist and should co-exist at the beginning. Now, where that’s going to take us, time will tell.”

A meeting among players in New York – where Nadal and Federer are absent – was set for Saturday to explore the idea and measure support to move forward, with Djokovic saying the move would help players beyond the top 100.

“We don’t have a minimum number of players that will sign or maximum number of players that will sign,” Djokovic said. “We’re focused on top 500 in singles, top 200 in doubles. We’re hoping we can get majority of those players.

“We are aware that it most likely will not be the case today, but we are giving it a time. We have to start from somewhere.

“I think this is an important step for players and for the sport… I think this is very good for sport.”

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. It is time for unity, not for separation,” said the 19-time major winner.

“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 added his support to 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.

“It’s an important step forward. I’ve been hearing in the last 10-15 years lots of players expressing the discontent with the way the players have been represented, especially the players who are outside of top 100… we have to listen to these guys and their needs.”

No boycotts, rival tour

Canadian world No 92 Vasek Pospisil announced Friday that he was quitting the Player Council.

“It has become evident that as a member of the players’ council within the current structure of ATP, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to have any influence whatsoever on any major decision on the circuit,” he wrote.

An ATP statement said, “We recognise the challenges that our members face in today’s circumstances, however we strongly believe that now is a time for unity, rather than internal division.”

Djokovic hoped to ease tour worries.

“They think that ATP cannot co-exist with the association. I have to respectfully disagree,” he said. “Legally we are 100% safe and we are allowed to form the player association.

“This is not a union. This is a player association. So we are not calling for boycotts. We are not forming parallel tours.”

Canada’s Milos Raonic called for more transparency in supporting the move.

“It’s something we should explore. Then I think we should go from there,” Raonic said. “This isn’t like a retaliation today completely. This is just players trying to come together.”