ATP Founder in Support of Novak Djokovic’s Breakaway PTPA

  • Donald Dell, the co-founder of ATP, supports Novak Djokovic’s breakaway player’s association. 
  • He says, however, the two organizations must work together for the good of the sport.
  • “The two groups should negotiate and compromise,” Dell told Insider.

Donald Dell, one of the founders of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) says he supports Novak Djokovic’s breakaway player’s organization, but that the two organizations must work together for the good of the sport. 

Former player Dell co-founded the ATP, the current governing body of men’s professional tennis, alongside Jack Kramer and Cliff Drysdale in 1972.

Formed to protect the interests of players, the organization established a ranking system to determine entries into tournaments; introduced a drug testing program; and set up a pension fund for players.

It was also responsible for the creation of the current ATP Tour. 

In 2020, however, Djokovic, alongside Canadian Vasek Pospisil, announced the launch of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) – a breakaway player’s organization designed to work alongside the ATP and provide players with a self-governance structure.

The PTPA describes itself as a “not-for-profit corporation that addresses player challenges and influences fair change within the business of professional tennis.”

It believes the ATP represents the interests of the tour as a whole and tournament organizers and that players no longer have enough of a voice.

One of its major goals is to change the “distribution of income” within the men’s tour so that lower-ranked players can earn more money, according to Tennis Majors. 

A post shared by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole)

 

The launch of the PTPA was met with huge backlash, including from a number of the top-ranked men’s players and the ATP, which vowed to do “everything in its power” to stop the group from “dividing and fragmenting” tennis.

Djokovic and Pospisil also received criticism for failing to include women players in its initial plans.

Despite opposition, however, as of June 2021, the PTPA claims to have more than 500 members, including approximately 200 women. 

Dell, who is no longer involved with the ATP, says he supports the PTPA, but says the organizations need to work in tandem to avoid creating a divide within the sport. 

“I’m not negative about the PTPA at all,” Dell told Insider. “But I would suggest, if I was Djokovic’s advisor, that he sit down with Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the ATP, and the two groups should negotiate and compromise. 

“Djokovic should try very hard to reform some of the problems, and they could have a really positive effect on improving the conditions for players.”

He added: “The stronger the PTPA becomes, the better armed they would be to sit down and negotiate real important reforms that they felt were important to their ATP membership.

“I don’t think the PTPA can compete directly with the tour board group today, because they’ve got a lot more money and a lot more people servicing the game all over the world.

“I would love to see them be successful and be strong enough so that they can renegotiate new terms and conditions with the tour board, which would help make the game stronger.”

Donald Dell attends the women's final on day 13 of the 2018 tennis US Open on Arthur Ashe stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

Donald Dell.

Getty/Jean Catuffe


Dell says two major roadblocks still exist for the PTPA if it wants to get enough traction to, as he suggests, negotiate with the ATP.

The first is having a big-name player other than Djokovic publicly showing their support for the organization, which is yet to happen.

“If you notice, none of the top players have agreed to join the PTPA, you don’t hear of any of the top 10 players saying, ‘I’m joining. It’s a great idea,'” said Dell. 

“The top 25 players are all making a fortune playing tennis, which was the goal and the objective when the ATP started. They don’t want to mess up a good thing.”

The second is the scope of the PTPA’s plans. According to Dell, the group wants to better distribute prize money to more players than is financially possible. 

“At the end of the day, it’s all about how many players can the tour afford? On a reasonable cost of living basis?” said Dell. 

“Is it 125? Which is what it was 40 years ago. Or is it 275 now? You would think it would be much more than 125 because the prize money has gone up tenfold.

“But rather than trying to be a competitive, possibly destructive force, which will weaken both sides a little bit, or maybe a lot – the PTPA should sit down and work out what they want, which is more prize money for more players, compared what the tour is currently affording to do.

“And that takes good leadership, educated people, goodwill, and cooperation.”

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