Kevin Anderson Discusses New Players' Association Proposal, 2020 U.S. Open

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On this week's episode of Beyond the Baseline, host Jon Wertheim talks with Kevin Anderson, following his first-round loss to Alexander Zverev, and Jamie Lisanti about the news and storylines from the first week of the 2020 U.S. Open in New York. Wertheim and Anderson discuss the U.S. Open bubble and COVID-19 protocol; his thoughts on the newly-proposed Professional Tennis Players Association, especially as a long-standing member of the ATP Player Council; and much more.

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The following transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Jon Wertheim: Let's talk some ATP politics, shall we? First off, why don't you explain what your role is vis a vis the tour right now after this weekend, what your position? What's your role here?

Kevin Anderson: I've been on the ATP Players' Council now for a number of years. Actually, it's been eight years. And because the tour suspended and our elections were supposed to be redone in Wimbledon, we decided that it was important for the current council who sort of had a good understanding of what was going on to extend it from six months. So I could be wrong, but I think I'm one of the longest serving players on this council. So I've spent a lot of time in meetings outside the council.

And, basically, the council's 10 players who represent all the players, we were voted in. The players are made up of different representing groups. I represent players ranked one through 50, and we've got other players who represent doubles players, singles players from 50 to 100 and then at large. And there's different areas around the world. So we try to get a very diverse group to represent players.

I've been the vice president for the last four years now, and after this weekend for the remainder of my term, I'll be serving as president of the council. Our job is to try and help players and that's what we want. It's a go-between between representing players and sort of more of the management and governance behind the scenes. And we meet several times a year, we have group discussions. And it's really been great to see that, I think, as time goes on, I think you've seen a council that's been very involved. There's been some pros and cons with that. But I think overall, having players interested and working together is always a positive thing in the long run.

JW: Just sort of broadly, what do you make of the last 72 hours? I mean, we should be clear, your name was on the letter that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also signed that seemed to view skeptically this PTPA. What do you make of what's transpired over the last three, four days?

KA: For quite a while, there's been talk of players trying to form some sort of either association or union. And that's a very tricky road to go down, especially when you look at the way that the ATP is structured. You know, basically the ATP has a share between the players and the tournaments. And I think if you look at any sport—let's take a lot of the U.S sports where you've got the players and then the ownership. There's the synergy, but obviously, a lot of times the topics and what's being discussed, the different parties have different interests. I mean, I think that's natural to look at. Obviously, as an example, the big one is prize money. Players want as much prize money as possible and then tournaments, these are businesses as well. I mean, obviously, they see the value in what the players bring. But I don't think they sitting on their side saying, let's see how much of our revenues can be spent on players. So there is that balance.

And I think from that, there's many issues. It's not just prize money, there's scheduling, there's commitments. There's quite a few topics we can talk of. And I think sort of what's transpired is, a few players thought that maybe a better option to get what they feel players deserve is to sort of break away from the current structure of the ATP. And that's why you've seen this new players' association being formed, led by obviously Djokovic and Pospisil. And that's sort of going out of what the current ATP structure is.

As you mentioned, I chatted a lot with the remaining council members, we don't feel that's the best path to go down. And there's a few reasons why. One of the big reasons is starting this year, we have had new management come in and we've got a new chairman and CEO. The role has been broken up—before we had one person serving both those positions. And in Australia this year, they put forth a very bold and exciting plan that the council was definitely on board on. And obviously, there's a difference between presenting a plan and being able to execute and actually make it happen. But people need time, and that's not something that's going to happen overnight. This is a plan that involves bringing all the different entities of sport together in a way that hasn't been done before. I don't know if I'm sure some people saw the letter that was written by our chairman on Andrea Gaudenzi and what he's proposing. There's a lot in there, not just collecting TV rights and things like that, but also within the management itself. So what's been interesting is just that the vision itself is one that all the players agree to and feel like let's give management the time to do that.

I think also what's important to notice is even the council in the past, it's not always been smooth sailing, but I think it I'd feel amiss not to acknowledge and recognize the improvements. When I say improvements—the value that players have really pushed tournaments to see on. I think everybody can agree that, you know, especially prior to 2012, the split between tournaments and players wasn't wasn't fair. It wasn't equal. And you've seen since 2012, in a lot of the metric, 100% increases in prize money to players. Our pension has improved dramatically. There's still a lot of things that we aren't happy with. And we continue to push management a lot for this. But we felt that we need to give time and really allow management to sort of work through this.

So that's where it's been a little bit tough from our side when we did see this formation of the new players' association. Where I feel like it's potentially splitting the players, and I think in a time like this, especially with the COVID crisis, having unity and players working together is of utmost importance. And just having this association that sort of doesn't necessarily have defined roles of how can fit into the ATP structure makes me a little bit concerned. And that's one of the reasons I was not for it right now. And that within the fact that with the new management and even within our current structure, I feel like there is room for those improvements to happen. And I understand everybody sees a little bit differently. I know this is a lengthy answer. I hope I'm managing to sort of portray some of the some of the thoughts that where both the council and the new management are looking and some of the concerns that they have. 

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