Tensions over Novak Djokovic’s new tennis players’ group have reopened after the world No1 publicly offered his backing to Vasek Pospisil, who appeared to call the head of the ATP a “f***ing a*****e” in an umpire row this week.
Canadian Pospisil, with whom Djokovic announced the creation of the controversial Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) in August, was at the center of a shocking on-court meltdown at the Miami Open this week, apparently fueled by an earlier meeting with Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.
Chair umpire Arnaud Gabas challenged the world number 65 over his enraged outburst after watching him throw a huge wobbly that included smashing his racket and angrily recounting his exchange with Gaudenzi the previous day.
“An hour and a half yesterday, the chair of the ATP, f***ing screaming at me in a player meeting for trying to unite the players,” Pospisil ranted, evidently indicating that the row over the new association is not likely to dissipate anytime soon.
Concerning matters at hand, I am not in Miami. However Vasek Pospišil is my good friend and I empathize with him wholeheartedly. Players on tour would agree that he is an individual of the highest integrity who cares about the well being of his fellow competitors. 1/2
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) March 26, 2021
“For an hour and a half. The leader of the ATP, get him out here.”
When Gabas asked why the ATP chief should be summoned, Pospisil offered the reply “f***ing a*****e” – widely interpreted as a further reference to Gaudenzi.
Unsurprisingly, Djokovic supported his co-president. “Concerning matters at hand, I am not in Miami,” the Australian Open champion told his following of almost nine million on Twitter.
Vasek was obviously pushed to breaking point, he has apologised unlike Gaudenzi who should never have treated him like that in the first place #PlayersVoice
— Sharon🐊 (@_newballsplease) March 27, 2021
Didn’t care about his fellow competitor while he was throwing his hissy fit and ruining opponents rhythm!
— Wanda ,Rafa’s Fist T-Shirt and ugly brown shoes 🗑 (@skrebnits) March 26, 2021
“However, Vasek Pospisil is my good friend and I empathize with him wholeheartedly.
“Players on tour would agree that he is an individual of the highest integrity who cares about the wellbeing of his fellow competitors. I am hopeful that players recognize the importance of standing together.”
Fellow modern greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had hinted that they felt the inception of the new association was divisive, with the Spaniard speaking out against “separation” and the Swiss urging players to remain “united” in response to Djokovic and Pospisil’s proposals at the time.
But there is a time and a place Novak and on the court and to an umpire is not that place………
— Chris Goldsmith (@TheTennisTalker) March 26, 2021
While the Serbian superstar received a familiar deluge of love from his legion of admirers after his latest message, others were unconvinced that Pospisil should be supported.
“Didn’t care about his fellow competitor while he was throwing his hissy fit and ruining his opponent’s rhythm,” replied one.
Another argued: “There is a time and a place, Novak – and on the court and to an umpire is not that place.”
Spoken like a true leader. The biggest tragedy is that it never should have reached that level in the first place. The players are NOT employees of the ATP. They are in a mutually beneficial relationship so when the ATP chairman becomes toxic, it is time for them to step down.
— Thuso ➐ (@djokertennis) March 26, 2021
Agreed he has poisoned the well no matter how the player interact with the @atptour now or in the future.When you burn that credibility and show your colors you CAN NOT RECOVER. He has to go no matter what history will show this.The players need to DEMAND ACTION. pic.twitter.com/UPZ7IIDRMQ
— Tom K (@tomk429) March 26, 2021
Talk of the PTPA has quietened since the two players directly behind Djokovic in the rankings appeared to at least temporarily shun the idea.
“Spoken like a true leader,” said one Djokovic admirer. “The biggest tragedy is that it never should have reached that level in the first place.
“The players are not employees of the ATP. They are in a mutually beneficial relationship so when the ATP chairman becomes toxic, it is time for them to step down.”
Another respondent also criticized Gaudenzi. “He has poisoned the well, no matter how the players interact with the ATP now or in the future,” they warned.
“When you burn that credibility and show your colors, you cannot recover. He has to go, no matter what history will show. The players need to demand action.”
Djokovic initially welcomed the appointment of Gaudenzi in 2019, although his patience with the supremo may have been tested by the one-time world number 18 comparing him to a child riding a bike while suggesting that his ill-fated Adria Tour last summer had “endangered many” within the context of the pandemic.
Gaudenzi and Djokovic met fora two-and-a-half hour meeting the month after the PTPA plan was announced, with Djokovic praising their “open and transparent” relationship while claiming that the associations would work together.
Speaking earlier this month, Gaudenzi credited Djokovic with “redefining excellence” in tennis.