Novak Djokovic welcomes AIATF players association bid to help players

Novak Djokovic’s new association had immediate supporters among the game’s biggest names but raised eyebrows among many others who felt it did not address the key issue that has plagued the greater side of…

Novak Djokovic welcomes AIATF players association bid to help players

Novak Djokovic’s new association had immediate supporters among the game’s biggest names but raised eyebrows among many others who felt it did not address the key issue that has plagued the greater side of the game for years.

The Majorcan, who reached world No 1 after his career renaissance last year, teamed up with three other former world No 1s, Boris Becker, Andy Roddick and Radek Stepanek, to establish the ITF Players Association (ITFPA) on Monday.

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The union will debate sporting policy at its annual general meeting in October and push for increased benefits and more support for professionals including better race equality, better treatment for injured players and early retirement.

That has won praise from the tennis greats, including the world No 1 Roger Federer, but there was still some scepticism within the ranks.

“This is exciting news,” David Nalbandian, the former world No 4 from Argentina, told the BBC. “In a way it is a miracle. Players today feel they have the ability to decide what they want. It just seems like this is a step in the right direction.”

Nalbandian said the real work began when the ITFPA would sit down with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to discuss potential benefits for the game.

“It needs to start from the top. It has to talk to the ITF. I hope this will not be a business meeting for a player, it will be a meeting for all players.”

As well as demanding better welfare and financial support for the leading players, Novak Djokovic will also push for increased fair play and equality from officials at tournaments and tournaments throughout the world.

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“The players who are most deserving of support and financial assistance are the leading players,” Djokovic told the BBC. “The top players expect the tournament directors to do their best to make these tournaments the best they can be and I can only hope that on a professional level we can take that right up to the top players and make it even better.”

Current world No 4 Stan Wawrinka said the ITFPA would allow the game to attract its next generation of players and show how it would do things differently in future.

“It’s a good step forward, the guys are realising what it means to be a top player. It’s important to have an organisation that supports these guys at the start of their career and we should be ready to continue supporting these guys in their later years.”

Djokovic’s alliance with three former players first started at Indian Wells in April, when the Serb became the first three-time winner of the tournament in the Californian desert.

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