By John Weaver ,AFP
MELBOURNE — Novak Djokovic Tuesday called for talks to improve conditions in tennis to be kept “behind closed doors” after a public disagreement between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at the Australian Open. Players Saturday met new men’s tour chief Brad Drewett in Melbourne on the eve of the event and are reportedly unhappy over Davis Cup scheduling and their share of prize money at grand slams, among other issues. After the players’ meeting Rafael Nadal accused Roger Federer of not doing enough to back fellow professionals, exposing a rift between the two longtime rivals on how to improve conditions. “It’s obvious that there are a lot of players in men’s tennis that are, you know, complaining about the schedule and season,” said Djokovic, after cruising through his first round match in Melbourne against Paolo Lorenzi. “They don’t even need to say much. But just looking at the injuries that we have, especially from the top players, including myself … it’s obvious that we need some change. “But I prefer talking in detail about these things more behind closed doors.” Federer Monday said he had no hard feelings towards world number two Nadal, who admitted that he regretted making his comments in public. And Andy Roddick said the two had been “the model of a respectful rivalry” and “the last thing I worry about is Roger and Rafa getting along.” But the former world number one said there was a strong mood for change among players after the “passionate” pretournament meeting. “I don’t think it was an angry meeting. I feel like it was an opportunity to maybe articulate our issues,” he said. “There’s not a lot of times when you can get 140 guys in the same room in an open forum. I think it was constructive.” Roddick added that the men’s tennis circuit needed “fundamental” change to give more power to the players. “The definition of insanity defined by the dictionary is trying the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” he said. “That’s the process that’s been in place since the late ’80s or early ’90s. We’re still having some of the same discussions they had then.”
He said: “I don’t think it’s smart for us to ask for permission to have less events. That seems ridiculous if you’re looking at tennis as a business. “U2 doesn’t ask to go on tour. They go on tour. So I think that’s the fundamental issue at hand.” Russia’s Alex Bogomolov Jr., who earlier tweeted strong support for a players’ strike, also said it was inspiring to see players united — but he was more cagey on calls for a walk-out on Tuesday. “Everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to grow the game and make it better. We’ll see what happens,” Bogomolov Jr. said. “The way everybody is sticking by each other, the way everybody is on the same page, is inspiring,” he added.