Australian tennis great Todd Woodbridge has taken aim at World No. 1 Novak Djokovic for spearheading a “tone deaf” breakaway union of professional players this week.
The New York Times reported Djokovic is expected to announce his resignation from the presidency of the ATP players’ council and help form the PTPA (Professional Tennis Players Association).
The PTPA believes it is better placed to defend the players of the world top 500 who have been badly affected by the coronavirus.
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Speaking on Channel 9’s Sports Sunday, Woodbridge slammed Djokovic for the contentious move amid a global pandemic.
“This is tone deaf by the group that have decided to break away. The ATP is the players’ representation, they’ve got their seat at the table; they want more, they want more control of that,” Woodbridge said on Sunday morning.
“It’s just poor judgment at this time. Everybody’s losing jobs, millions are out of work, tournaments are struggling to stay up and afloat, and the tour’s been trying for the last six months to get back.
“This is the first week back and they throw this sort of bomb out there? I’m pretty disappointed with the way that they’ve gone with that timing.”
Todd Woodbridge with Jelena Dokic.Source:News Corp Australia
The 49-year-old also questioned why the sport’s female stars were not involved in the PTPA formation.
“But there’s the biggest downfall of all and that’s … where are the women? If you’re going to do this, tennis is the one sport that’s united in the world, with equal prize money, our majors are played together,” Woodbridge said.
“We are better and stronger as one, and we’re not standing up to that. This group has totally missed the mark on an opportunity to bring everybody together, and I think that’s going to be their downfall.”
Spanish superstar Rafael Nadal pleaded with Djokovic to rethink the historic 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,” Nadal said.
“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.”
Roger Federer, a 20-time Grand Slam winner, quickly added his support to Nadal.
“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,” Federer tweeted.
The ATP opposed the plan being put forth and called for unity during the ongoing turbulent times in the world.
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Novak Djokovic is undefeated in 2020.Source:Getty Images
With Nadal and Federer absent from the upcoming US Open, Djokovic is a firm favourite to claim his 18th Grand Slam title. However, Woodbridge believes the off-court drama could impede his performance.
“He’s by far and away the best player at the moment, and it’s his to lose, really,” Woodbridge said.
“He can try and deflect all the pressure that he wants but he really is the best player. He’s creating a lot of interest because there’s a lot of off-court stuff going off too that’s going to make it hard for him to keep focused as we get into the US Open.”
The 2020 US Open commences on Tuesday AEST, and Djokovic’s round one encounter will be against Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur.
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— With AFP
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