The 2023 professional tennis season promises to be an intriguing one for a host of different reasons. The biggest talking point over the next 12 months, however, may not be Novak Djokovic’s attempt to win the most number of grand slams in the history of the men’s game.
Djokovic making waves both on and off the court
Djokovic looks like a nailed-on certainty to end the year with the most grand slams as the latest tennis odds have the Serb at just 11/10 to win Wimbledon while also being priced at a mere 11/8 to go all the way at Flushing Meadows during the US Open.
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Yes, this looks like the year where Djokovic may rewrite the history books but it is his role as founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association that may ultimately be what the Serb is remembered for in 2023.
To understand why, let’s take a look at what has happened in professional golf over the last 12 months.
LIV Golf changes professional golf in its entirety
Taking on the PGA Tour seemed to be a futile idea and one that would surely end in failure but that didn’t stop the think tank behind LIV Golf from doing exactly that in 2022.
Indeed, the new rebel league backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia was prepared to suffer catastrophic financial losses – to the tune of £784 million, in order to achieve its overall objective of disrupting golf.
To do this, LIV Golf had to go head to head with the PGA Tour, an organization that had not had any genuine competition for six decades.
Fast forward almost a year and, in many respects, the brains behind LIV Golf have been successful in creating a new professional tour after recruiting some of the game’s biggest names as members.
See you soon Tucson ✌️#LIVGolf pic.twitter.com/2BabpaKOU0— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) March 3, 2023
So, what does this have to do with Djokovic and tennis you might ask? The answer is everything.
Will the winds of change blow in tennis?
Essentially, professional tennis is ripe for a LIV-style takeover given the disharmony among the seven stakeholders who govern the game as we know it. They are, of course, the four grand slams, two tours, and the International Tennis Federation.
As things stand, there is widespread fallout among most of those parties, and recent history has taught that when there is division, there is always a chance to provide those who are disgruntled with a new vision of what an exciting future might look like.
Step forward Djokovic and the breakaway PTPA movement that he founded in 2019.
All professional tennis players should be able to earn a living competing on tour.— Professional Tennis Players Association (@ptpaplayers) February 27, 2023
We've heard many of you ask what the PTPA is doing to make this a reality.
Here are our four main areas of focus for improving the sport's economics for ALL players… 🧵 pic.twitter.com/ZrAEi4Ltq2
As things stand, the PTPA is, for all intents and purposes, still trying to figure out what it wants to achieve as a group but there is no doubt that above all, this is an organization that wants widespread reform in tennis. This ultimately means that the PTPA can be the vehicle that is used for radical change.
In other words, if a sovereign wealth fund approached the Djokovic-run PTPA in a bid to partner with them in trying to change professional tennis, as was done in golf when LIV first spoke to Phil Mickelson, then they would in all likelihood, not be averse to listening to the proposal.
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The question remains, could tennis really be taken over with a new world order drawn up? The first thing to point out is no one can say for certain. However, if the long-established PGA Tour can be successfully challenged, then the chances of tennis’ fractured professional community being open to change are quite high.
Also, we have seen that the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia is increasingly on the lookout for new opportunities. This can be noted with their venture into golf, the purchase of Newcastle United, and their new partnership with Formula One. In short, don’t takes your eyes off the world of tennis as this is a sport that is long overdue for a change of direction.
As touched on, there are many compelling storylines set to dominate professional tennis in 2023 but most may not revolve around anything that’s actually happened on the court.