Vasek Pospisil ended his 2020 season last week in Sofia with a runner-up finish, but his work this year is far from over. As co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), the 30-year-old finds himself in the center of the sport's latest power struggle between its athletes and governing bodies.
In an interview with TENNIS.com earlier this week, Pospisil says the PTPA has not yet been fully established and has no malicious intent. Co-founder Novak Djokovic echoed these sentiments, saying the PTPA's goal is to collaborate with the tours and find its place within the sport's ecosystem.
"The whole purpose of the PTPA is strictly to organize and unite the players," Pospisil says, "and be represented in a proper way where we actually have the ability to impact major decisions that are made that affect our livelihoods."
Pospisil had initially joined the ATP Player Council in 2018 to advocate for his colleagues and, as he saw it, address some of their many grievances.
"Why are we having all these player issues?" the world No. 61 asks. "So many players constantly complaining about how things are run—everything from the revenue share to representation to just you name it.
"So I joined the council and I realized that it was a very broken system."
On the court this year, Pospisil reached two ATP finals and the fourth round of the US Open. (Getty Images)
Following back surgery in January of 2019, the Canadian had more time on his hands, which he put to use off the court. He approached Norton Rose Fulbright for legal aid, secured Djokovic's support and recruited players for a forthcoming organization. Eighty of the Top 100 ATP players signed on, and, spearheaded by the guidance of Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys, 80 of the Top 100 WTA players did as well. Those signatures showed support for the PTPA's formation; the next step was to sign contracts.
At the time of the PTPA's launch this August, Djokovic and Pospisil were forced to resign from the ATP Player Council. This week, with elections for the January 2021 term imminent, Djokovic and Pospisil's names were on the list of nominees.
Neither player sought out reelection; they were put in the running by their peers. Their presence as nominees did not mean that the PTPA was taking steps backward, as Djokovic and Pospisil have maintained.
"Until the PTPA is fully established, [the ATP Player Council] still is currently the only platform where you can represent players at some capacity," Pospisil says. "Quite ineffectively, but it is however minor of an impact you can have."
But the ATP board quickly put a stop to their possible return after a meeting on Tuesday night.
“The rule by ATP board was voted on last night, which basically doesn't allow any active player to be part of the council and any other organization in the tennis ecosystem," Djokovic told press on Wednesday. "Which is disappointing, to be honest, because I have not been approached by anybody from ATP on that matter."
Djokovic has fielded plenty of questions about the PTPA during this week's ATP Finals in London. (Getty Images)
The reason, effectively, was a conflict of interest.
"I do not see any conflict of any kind in being part of the PTPA and the ATP Player Council," Djokovic said. "I have not seen it back in August when the PTPA was founded. I don't see it now."
"What is so wrong about having a player group being represented by professionals?" Pospisil says. "If everything is run so smoothly and if everything is so fair to the players and for everybody, why are they fighting this so hard, right? Of course, there are issues there, right?"
All fair questions. And here is one more: What's next for the Pospisil, Djokovic and the PTPA?
Pospisil says he'll wait for Djokovic to finish his season at the Nitto ATP Finals before they discuss their next move. They are currently in the stages of organizing bylaws, player members and committees, and making key hires.
"We're just really building it right now and getting everybody that we need," Pospisil says. "And also, one of the most important things that we're trying to obviously avoid is conflict of interest, because the ATP has tremendous conflict of interest right now with everybody who's on the board. It's so intertwined.
"It's like no other sport out there, and it's unfortunate that it's gotten to this point and it needs to be a little bit cleaned up."
Hear more from Pospisil next week when he joins the TENNIS.com Podcast.