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Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal object to Djokovic proposal for player union

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and other members of the ATP Player Council spoke out Saturday against a plan put forth by top-ranked Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil to start a union of sorts for men’s tennis — bringing the sport’s politics into the spotlight just before the U.S. Open.

Also against the proposal: the ATP men’s tour and the sport’s other governing bodies, including the WTA women’s tour and the four Grand Slam tournaments. They issued a joint statement Saturday saying: “It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division.”

Djokovic and Pospisil are seeking support for the formation of what they’re calling the Professional Tennis Players Association; they would be the co-presidents. They said in an email to players the PTPA is needed to “promote, protect and represent the interests of its players … and protect the future of tennis.”

Unlike athletes in major North American team sports, tennis players never have had a union to represent them and collectively bargain with ownership about revenue sharing and other matters. Each tennis player is an independent contractor.

“We are not calling for boycotts. We are not forming parallel tours,” Djokovic said after winning the Western & Southern Open on Saturday, two days before play begins at the U.S. Open.

“Of course I would love to have Roger and Rafa on board. Of course I would love to have all the players on board. But I understand,” Djokovic said. “I truly understand that some of them have different opinions and they don’t think the time is right.”

Djokovic has been the president, and Pospisil a member, of the ATP Player Council but both are resigning, as is John Isner.

Andy Murray said Saturday he wants to give the current ATP leadership — former player Andrea Gaudenzi took over as CEO in January — more time to work. Murray also does not like that the PTPA would be for male players only; there was talk earlier this year about the possibility of merging the ATP and WTA.

Having a group representing men and women would send “a much more powerful message,” Murray said.

Federer and Nadal joined player council representatives Kevin Anderson, Jurgen Melzer, Sam Querrey and Bruno Soares in sending a note to players raising questions about the proposal and saying they’re against it.

“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,” Nadal tweeted. “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 quote-tweeted his on-court rival to say he agrees and added: “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.”

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