US Open, a new players union without Federer and Nadal

As the US Open begins, a new players union without Federer and Nadal: what will be the future of tennis?

The Cincinnati Masters 1000 - the first official post-pandemic tournament, played nearly six months after the last - was the most symbolic of the possible finals. On the one hand, Milos Raonic, who showed up with long and disheveled hair because he hadn't been to a barber for months to limit contact and avoid any risk of contagion, said he hadn't seen his parents since before the pandemic began. fear of infecting them. On the other, Novak Djokovic - a hero with increasingly gloomy traits - the protagonist of a series of conspiracy and anti-scientific statements, as well as a promoter of the Adria Tour, a series of performances organized in June without any kind of preventive rule that ended up turning into a Covid outbreak.

As is often the case - or speaking of 2020 as it always has, as the Serbian is still unbeaten this season - Nole has once again won on the pitch, equaling Nadal's record of Masters 1000 career winnings. But in recent days the sporting results have taken a back seat, with the real battle moving to the one off the pitch, where the Serbian noisily challenged the tennis establishment best represented by his historical rivals Federer and Nadal: taking advantage of the absence of the two legends in the New York bubble (where the Cincinnati tournament was held and in the next two weeks will win the first post-pandemic slam).

 The split of the rebels

After the final, unlike his opponent who used the showcase obtained to deliver a heartfelt speech in support of the Black Lives Matter protests, Djokovic avoided the conference room to define the final details of what was one of the most sensational betrayals politicians of tennis history. The Serbian resigned together with three other members of the council (the Canadian Pospisil and the Americans Isner and Querrey) and took the first official steps for the foundation of the new union by exploiting the particular conditions in which the Cincinnati tournament was held.

To ensure the safety of all players, in fact, the ATP has decided to follow the example of the NBA and create a bubble within the Flushing Meadows facilities, where the US Open is traditionally played, preparing a rather detailed protocol. to minimize the risk of contagion. Djokovic, who in recent months has had a rather conspiratorial and denier approach to the pandemic (even after testing positive for the virus) immediately criticized the rigidity of the rules imposed by the institutions. In particular, the Serbian took sides in defense of the South Americans Pella and Dellien, excluded from competitions and removed from the bubble after their physiotherapist tested positive for COVID-19.

The Serbian has found a very strong ally in Vasek Pospisil, one of the most active tennis players at the union level (considering his position we could define him as the Bernie Sanders of the circuit). Pospisil has been fighting for years to give a clearer and more defined voice to the players' bodies, supporting the need for a separate entity from the ATP that can fight for the redistribution of earnings among the various categories of the ranking (particularly downward) and that protects tennis players in the daily difficulties of work, such as the high costs of traveling by plane and staying in hotels.

The future of tennis passes through New York

At first, the rebellion seemed destined to return: following the announcement, only a few players sided openly alongside Djokovic and Pospisil, while the tennis establishment combined all its firepower through a single signed press release. from the ATP, ITF, US Open, Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and Australian Open, as well as the remaining players' council members. As the days went by, however, the movement began to attract several adhesions up to a good number of players in the top 100, appeared in a shot that portrays them posing all together for the first time published on Twitter by Pospisil.

In addition to the large group of Slavic players loyal to Djokovic, the photo features many of tennis's nascent tapes - such as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov - and a few American veterans. Among the Italians, only Berrettini joined, which will probably be joined by Fognini, absent in New York.

If on the one hand, the new association has done well by catalyzing the discontent of some players with the work of the institutions, on the other hand, it has already run into two gross errors - especially from the media point of view - which could slow down its growth. In the first place, the new union took its first steps without including its female colleagues, despite the fact that on several occasions there has already been talk of a possible union of the federations; This decision is closely linked to the second media problem of the PTPA, namely the passive - if not hostile - attitude of its members with respect to the political commitment of the federations which, following the example of some of the American leagues, have decided to postpone all scheduled matches for August 28 to draw attention to the delicate racial problem in the United States. Some of the tennis players did not appreciate the monochromatic nature of the decision, complaining that they were not at all questioned by the top management, much less than the mobilization started with the refusal to take the field of Naomi Osaka, a black Japanese tennis player, who boycotted her semi-final and wore a Black Lives Matter shirt.z

As the US Open begins, a new players union without Federer and Nadal: what will be the future of tennis?

Analyzing the players who joined the new union, a rather disturbing aspect emerges: the field of participation has attracted some of the worst elements of the circuit among the Covid deniers and the more retrograde conservatives, such as the Slavic faction of Djokovic - which organized performances with full stadiums. and disco parties in the middle of a pandemic - and the discreet representation of white American conservatism. In fact, the PTPA also included those players who were not at all satisfied with the prospect of a union between the ATP and the WTA - instead supported by Federer and Nadal - which would pave the way towards equal prize money between men and women, even today. one of the most pressing issues in the world of tennis.

Meanwhile, it is an Italian who finds himself at the center of this storm: last year Andrea Gaudenzi was appointed as the new president of the ATP at the end of a series of internal political battles that led to the purge - precisely at the hands of Djokovic and the North Americans - by former president Chris Kermode. Gaudenzi, perhaps raising the tragic register a little, declared that the split of the rebels "could constitute a serious threat to the very existence of the ATP." Meanwhile, in New York, the first post-pandemic slam began quietly and, obscured by events off the pitch, risks becoming the most anonymous edition of the US Open in history. And the favorite is precisely the man who with his conspiracy is putting the world of tennis in crisis.