Voice behind ITF petition Maria Patrascu hopes Novak Djokovic does form player union

October 17, 2019

Patrascu is making an impact (Picture: Shutterstock/Mai Groves) Before 2019, few would have heard of Maria Patrascu  The Canadian left-hander has only climbed as high as world No. 819 in the WTA rankings but has been making her voice heard off the court  Patrascu is the brains behind a petition that has captured the imagination of the tennis world  Started in April last year, Patrascu’s proposal to change the rules installed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) this year has now been signed by more than 13,500 people  For a long time, the petition – which initially had a goal of 2,000 signatures – was a slow burner Indeed, just three weeks ago there were only 4,000 supporters.  ‘Honestly, I can’t believe it,’ Patrascu tells Metro ‘I really didn’t think it would have that many signatures. Patrascu’s petition has gathered momentum (Picture: Change org) ‘As soon as January 1 came about and a lot of players saw their ranking disappear, they were in less tournaments… I think it just created a bit of an explosion in the tennis community Advertisement Advertisement  ‘They saw my petition was the platform that had the most signatures so far so I think it definitely maybe helped encourage people to get together Since then there have been thousands of people in the tennis community and coaches who have been sharing it and I think it’s made a big impact  ‘I didn’t think it would get that many, it took so long to get to 2,000. In the last month-and-a-half there has been 10,000 more ’  In many ways, it seems as if the outspoken Romanian-born 22-year-old was ahead of the curve  Patrascu was ‘worried’ by conversations with fellow professionals throughout 2018 who didn’t understand the gravity of their impending situation and felt compelled to ‘spread awareness’  ‘I don’t know,’ she pauses when asked why she started the petition. ‘I just kind of foresaw that a lot of players would suffer and I just wanted to do something about it What’s happened with the new rankings system?  From 2019, players will only earn ranking points at Tour and Challenger level events, while also going deep in ITF 25K events  Those who go out before the finals at 25K events and who are competing in 15K tournaments won’t get any ATP rankings points anymore  However, those competing at 25K and 15K level will get ITF ranking points and thus be ranked in a new system  At the end of 2018, those ATP points earned by players at the lower-level events essentially vanished, causing chaos in the ATP’s system, while the new ITF rankings were formulated instead  It is common for players to have both an ATP and ITF ranking.    ‘It’s the kind of person I am I just saw something that was sort of an injustice and I had to speak out and spread awareness Advertisement Advertisement  ‘Still, a lot of people are confused by reading all the rules I was just a little bit worried because no one seemed to know about it.’  Even though Patrascu has shot to notoriety in recent times, the ITF were well aware of her actions last year  Executive director of ITF circuits Jackie Nesbitt name-checked her in a recent defence of the ITF World Tennis Tour and Patrascu revealed she had spoken in an hour-long conference call with Nesbitt and head of the tour Andrew Moss in December  ‘Looking back now I think I was too optimistic and too trusting in them,’ she adds  ‘I was really hoping that what I did would make a difference. I don’t think they really took it that seriously Haggerty and the ITF have come under fire for the changes (Picture: Getty) ‘I remember after we finished the call I really felt like I’d failed and I’d let the other players down ’  Nesbitt claimed there was ‘misinformation’ inside Patrascu’s petition – a comment that frustrated her  ‘I would love for the ITF to dive into that and actually explain where I’ve been misinforming people,’ she says  ‘It makes me mad and sad at the same time. But more sad than anything.  ‘It makes me think they’re not thinking about hundreds or thousands of players that really don’t have a chance anymore and don’t have an opportunity to play  ‘That was really disappointing for me to see.’  There has been no further direct correspondence between Patrascu and the ITF since that fateful call at the end of 2018, although she was one of the near-700 players to sign a 3,649-word letter sent to the governing body at the start of last week Trust, she feels, in the organisation has reached an all-time low. Advertisement  MORE: Meet Dave Miley: The Irishman hoping to bring an end to David Haggerty’s controversial reign as ITF president  MORE: International Tennis Federation sent 3,700-word letter signed by nearly 700 players demanding ‘urgent action’  MORE: International Tennis Federation rules out any possibility of ITF World Tennis Tour being scrapped  MORE: Not Novak Djokovic: Meet tennis’ other world No 1 Peter Heller  That feeling of failure to single-handedly convince the ITF change was required has passed Instead, there is a feeling of hope that this perceived injustice will unite tennis players of all levels and backgrounds  Players are already coordinating their response in a 1,700-strong Facebook group called ‘Players vs ITF’ and Patrascu hopes a more formal body will be established sooner rather than later  ‘It’s brought a lot of people together but for sure moving forward to players having an official voice, there would definitely need to be an official players union being formed,’ she says Patrascu spoke with ITF chiefs in December (Picture: Shutterstock) ‘I think that would help to really make it official and move beyond having a Facebook group but I think it’s a great start ’  Patrascu is certainly not the first to toy with the idea of an official players’ union  Just last year, world No. 1 and president of ATP player council Novak Djokovic presented a legal expert to the annual men’s players meeting at the Australian Open, suggesting that a union was formed – separate from the ATP – in order to fight on behalf of stars for a greater slice of the prize money pie Advertisement  There’s no doubt that the union Djokovic was proposing – which was set to defend only the men’s interests – would diverge from Patrascu’s vision, but the 22-year-old hopes to see names of that ilk join forces with the lower-ranked players in order to create a brighter future for those fighting for a career in professional tennis  She says: ‘Definitely, if someone like Djokovic would take that initiative it would be very successful because he’s one of the best players so I think for top players they can really have an impact and have a much bigger voice Djokovic has spoken of his desire for a players’ union (Picture: Getty) ‘They reach a lot more people faster For the lower-ranked players it’s really hard for them to get their voice across  ‘I keep encouraging everyone to speak up because they do have a voice even if they’re not No 1 in the world. They’re still a tennis player and they deserve the respect and the rights to have their voice so I think the more people come together and then hopefully a player union will be formed  ‘I think it would really benefit the players because right now there really is nothing like that ’  Thanks to people like Patrascu, the voices of lesser-known players are certainly being heard  Former top-10 star Janko Tipsarevic this week released a video opposing the changes, while Stan Wawrinka’s coach Magnus Norman branded them as ‘morally wrong’ in his blog  ATP player council member Sergiy Stakhovsky revealed he would be raising the matter at the next council meeting at Indian Wells  Whether it draws a public response from president Djokovic remains to be seen. More: Tennis Federer and Nadal slammed as support for Djokovic emerges in Kermode row Federer, Djokovic & Nadal inject fresh uncertainty and excitement into clay season Rusedski gives verdict on Federer’s French Open chances after overtaking Djokovic & Nadal Advertisement Advertisement

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