Novak Djokovic might be rumored to not be as well-liked as Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, though one might wonder if that narrative is greater than the actual facts of the situation, but there is little doubt that long after Djokovic is done playing his legacy and impact on tennis will remain. And a bunch of that might not have anything to do with what he accomplished on the court.
Novak Djokovic started the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) along with fellow ATP player Vasek Pospisil in 2020. That was the year the COVID pandemic began, of course, but the organization wasn’t begun simply because Djokovic and Pospisil had nothing to do. For years, Djokovic had looked at the ATP tour and thought he could find a way to improve certain items.
One of the issues Djokovic saw was how players were confused and miscommunicated in terms of being drug tested. The PTPA has made great strides in terms of hiring recently and now has a full-time staff of 12, including Ahmad Nassir being hired as the executive director. Nassir told ESPN that players “not only do players not fully understand the process of what’s next (when it comes to drug testing), but it’s not entirely clear there even is a formal process.”
Novak Djokovic’s PTPA is growing and becoming very important
Recently, Simona Halep was banned for four years for failing at least one drug test for a banned substance. The PTPA is extremely pro-player and is willing to help Halep in any way possible in Halep’s attempt to appeal the ban. According to a statement from the PTPA
"We staunchly support and protect players’ rights in all instances. That includes exercising their due process and appellate rights in anti-doping cases. The repeated and unexplained delays in Simona Halep’s case are both unfair and unacceptable…The PTPA is fully committed to supporting her in any future appeals, as well as all players who require assistance."
But Novak Djokovic and Vasek Pospisil didn’t start the organization to simply dispute drug testing and the way it is handled. The group’s central mission is to “promote, protect and represent the interests of its players.”
The PTPA is not a union, however. Tennis players, as opposed to players who take part in team sports, are independent contractors so unionizing only goes so far. There are no membership dues for the PTPA and that’s partly what makes it different from the ATP or WTA. Djokovic wants the PTPA to allow players to have even more say in pay structure and fairness. The ATP and WTA, along with the Grand Slams and owners of tournaments, have a say in how tennis is run but that tends to be naturally self-serving as well.
The PTPA also now has an eight-player committee to help oversee how the organization is run and how to help the group grow. One of those players is Ons Jabeur. Another way the PTPA separates itself from the ATP and WTA is both male and female players can be part of the group.
When the PTPA began, some players, such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, did not see the point of a new organization. Maybe Novak Djokovic isn’t as beloved as Federer and Nadal now, but if the PTPA continues its growth, future players might admire Djokovic a lot more than Federer or Nadal.