Friday 20 July 2018

'Never have we intentionally thrown anybody out of the room' - Novak Djokovic clarifies 'boycott' reports

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic

Eleanor Crooks

Novak Djokovic insisted there has been no talk of a potential Australian Open boycott as he hit back at reports of his role in Friday's player meeting.

A story in the Daily Mail claimed the former world number one, who is the leader of the ATP's player council, stood up and addressed the meeting with a lawyer, with subjects including setting up a separate players' union and pushing for more prize money.

It has also been claimed the idea of a boycott of next year's Australian Open was mooted if the players' demands were not met.

Djokovic admitted that officials from the ATP and the Australian Open were asked to leave the room but flatly denied a lawyer had been present and painted a very different picture to that which has been reported.

Addressing a press conference after the 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over Donald Young that marked his return to grand slam action, Djokovic said: "I saw that some of you have written a story that has been a little bit exaggerated.

"You've taken things out of context. I saw that you've portrayed me as someone who is very greedy, asks for more money and wants to boycott. I respect your freedom and decisions to do that. But not much of what you wrote is true.

"What happened is that we just wanted to have us players talk about certain topics. I don't think there is anything unhealthy about that. A hundred players get together two or three times in a whole year.

"We wanted to use this opportunity to speak about certain subjects and see how everyone reacts to that, and I guess see what opinions are. There were no decisions being made. There were no talks about boycott or anything like that.

"I know that you guys are trying to take this forward several steps. Obviously you're talking about union, you're talking about boycott, you're talking about radical decisions to make and move so we can get financial compensations the way we deserve it.

But there were no talks about that. Never have we intentionally thrown anybody out of the room. Everything was done in a very normal, polite way."

Securing radical change in tennis is notoriously difficult because of the number of stakeholders, while the ATP represents not just the players but the tournaments as well.

The grand slams in particular have seen huge increases in prize money in recent years - this year's singles champions in Melbourne will take home £2.3million - but the percentage of revenue given to the players is lower than in other high-profile sports.

Djokovic said: "Everybody's trying to do their best. We are here at the Australian Open, and they always try to compensate the players in a best possible way.

"Things are going in the right direction. It's not only me that makes some calls, far from that. I'm just glad that I'm part of it, that I can contribute to a better sport today, and the future. Hopefully the next generation will even have a better sport.

"ATP is an association of players and tournaments. It has worked like that for the last 40-plus years in this kind of harmony, so to speak. It's not easy because a lot of times there's a conflict of interest. But everybody is trying to do their best."

Djokovic also said that equal prize money, a subject that continues to bubble beneath the surface, was not discussed.

Press Association

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