CNN  — 

Tennis has been left divided following the launch of a breakaway players’ association, with Roger Fereder and Rafael Nadal among those to criticize its formation.

The Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) was unveiled on Sunday as a body separate to the ATP Tour and tennis’ first player-only council since 1972.

It is being spearheaded by world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and 94th-ranked Vasek Pospisil, who said it is “very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on any major decisions” within the current structure alongside the ATP.

Djokovic, who continued his unbeaten streak in 2020 as he won the Western & Southern Open in New York, also said the current setup is “quite complex.”

He told reporters after his victory over Milos Raonic: “This is not a new idea. This hasn’t been something that came out of the blue. This has been a project for many players and many different generations over the last 20-plus years.

“I certainly think it’s the right step forward for the players, because I think it unifies the players. It allows them to have a platform, to have an association through which they will be able to express themselves better where they will be able to talk about the ideas, the interests, and the things that are related to the players.”

He added that he believes the PTPA can coexist alongside the ATP Tour, but in a statement the governing body of men’s tennis underlined the need for unity within the sport.

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“The governance structure of the ATP Tour provides players with equal seats at the table on every major decision affecting the circuit. We recognize the challenges that our members face in today’s circumstances,” the statement read.

“However we strongly believe that now is a time for unity, rather than internal division. We remain unwavering in our commitment to deliver for our players across all areas of our business, ensuring they receive maximum benefit from their years on Tour, and that their voices are heard.

“In parallel, we remain committed to working closely with the other governing bodies of tennis as we look to fulfill the true potential of our sport. Only as a unified sport can we truly focus on the fan experience, engage new audiences, and ensure that tennis continues to thrive.”

Djokovic celebrates defeating Milos Raonic in the final of the Western & Southern Open.

‘Disunion is definitely not the solution’

Federer and Nadal, the most decorated players in the men’s game, spoke out against the PTPA.

“The world is living a difficult and complicated situation. I personally believe these are times to be calm and work all of us together in the same direction. It is time for unity, not for separation,” Nadal said on social media.

“These are moments where big things can be achieved as long as the world of tennis is united. We all, players, tournaments and governing bodies, have to work together. We have a bigger problem and separation and disunion is definitely not the solution.”

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Federer, who earlier this year called for tennis to merge its men’s and women’s governing bodies, agreed that it is time “to stand united as players, and as a sport,” while three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray questioned the absence of female players in the new association.

Pospisil said there is “active dialogue with the women’s side” to incorporate female players in the PTPA.

Nadal (left) and Federer will not compete at this year's US Open.

The launch of the association comes on the eve of the US Open, which gets underway in Flushing Meadows on Monday.

A number of top players will not play in the tournament amid the coronavirus pandemic, including Federer and Nadal on the men’s side and top-ranked Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep on the women’s.

Djokovic and Murray, who continues his return from a career-threatening hip injury, will compete in the men’s draw, while Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams are among the high-profile participants in the women’s singles.

As in the NBA and the Champions League, players will live in bubbles around New York, either in tournament-sanctioned hotels or private accommodation.