Novak Djokovic has warned that the “elite is always going to look after the elite” and pledged not to be “part of the herd” in his bid to ensure lower-ranked players earn more money from tennis.
The world number one controversially launched the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) at the 2020 US Open, which was seen by some as a divisive move to create a breakaway group from the ATP Tour.
Alongside co-founder Vasek Pospisil, Djokovic has always insisted that the needs of his fellow players are his primary concern and has now reiterated his position as a “kid from Serbia trying to make a difference”.
“This goes for every aspect of life, not just tennis: we are conformist as a society,” Djokovic told Sport Klub, speaking amid speculation that he could be forced to sit out the Australian Open in January because of vaccination requirements after he refused to confirm whether he would travel to the first Grand Slam of the year.
“It always feels better to be a part of the herd, rather than leave it and say: ‘People, this is not just, this is not the truth, I will raise my voice and try to fight for those less fortunate than me’.
“Unfortunately, most of the people choose the easier way, to only take care of themselves. Since tennis is an individual sport, that comes to the surface even more.
“You will never find stories in the media about how many people make a living out of this sport. Everyone is talking about how much Djokovic, Federer and Nadal make.
“On the other hand, nobody is mentioning that tennis is the third-most popular sport globally, but it is outside the top ten when it comes to players’ income, compared to other sports.
“The top 350-to-400 players [on both Tours] can make a living out of this sport. Let me see how much money the 150th-best player in any other globally renowned sport makes.”
"Only if most players – especially top players – unite, we can do something concrete [which benefits the players]. Currently, we are getting nowhere, and that only suits people who have a monopoly position." (Full quotes, mostly Google Translate – but should be ok 👇) pic.twitter.com/0RTCDJq2Zn
— Oliver | Tennis (@insidetennis99) November 18, 2021
The PTPA, which is now thought to have hundreds of members, purportedly aims to increase prize money and make the revenue share given to players more transparent.
“PTPA and everything we are trying to do is for the benefit of those women and men who are trying to have their voice heard, but nobody is listening,” said Djokovic, who is estimated to have made more than $153 million from tennis.
“Elite is always going to look after the elite, that is how it goes. But there is a kid from Serbia trying to make a difference.
“I know that I am a thorn in the side of many people because I am trying to break the monopoly that has been ruling tennis for quite some time now, for many years.
“I respect the ATP and the structure; I am a part of it and I have made a living out of ATP tournaments, along with the Grand Slams.
"He's the greatest player of all time and I think people forget that sometimes"
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) November 20, 2021
In today's edition of things I wish I hadn't heard:
"I'm always happy to share some of my experiences with Zverev," Djokovic said. "We always had a wonderful relationship."
"I wish him all the best. He's a great guy, fantastic tennis player, I'm sure soon to be a Slam champ." pic.twitter.com/PZimAydnbV
— Musab (@Musab_Abid) November 21, 2021
“I try to contribute in my own way to the progress of the ATP Tour, I am aware of that role of mine.
“On the other hand, it is not a secret that this system is not working well for the players. We need to find a way for more players to be able to make a living out of tennis, we have to do better and we have to speak about it publicly more often.”
Djokovic suffered an upset against world number three Alexander Zverev on at the ATP Finals on Saturday, losing in three sets in Turin.
German Zverev will face Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev in the season-ending final on Sunday.