Graeme Agars: Tension brewing at Australian Open

Author
Radio Sport, NZ Herald,
Section
Audio,
Publish Date
Monday, 14 January 2019, 7:16PM
Novak Djokovic is reportedly leading efforts to eject Chris Kermode as chief executive of the ATP. (Photo / Getty)

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Men's tennis could be facing a player revolt, with a war over player power and pay brewing behind the scenes at the Australian Open.

In a dramatic move which could see major changes made to the tour, players council president and world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, on Saturday reportedly voted against extending the tenure of ATP chief executive Chris Kermode at a meeting in Melbourne, AAP reported.

The ATP board will vote on the organisation's new leadership at the conclusion of the Open, starting today.

Tennis Australia and Australian Open boss, Craig Tiley, is widely tipped to take the top job if Kermode is demoted.

Djokovic, however, wouldn't confirm his vote due to the meeting's confidentially.

"The decision hasn't been made on the president," Djokovic said.

"Whether there's a renewal or not, it's going to be decided in the next period."

Although Djokovic hailed Tennis Australia for boosting Open prizemoney by 14 per cent to a whopping $62.5million, he insisted that more needed to be done.

"One of the things from yesterday's general meetings that is kind of echoing in my ear is that there's this conviction of people generally in sport, including us, that only a hundred players can live out of this sport," Djokovic said.

"That's something that ATP is definitely, us as players, part of the council, are trying to change.

"We're trying to increase the number of players that are able to travel around the world, not just cover expenses, have the full team, have a decent living out of the sport that they play."

Novak Djokovic during a practice session ahead of the start of the Australian Open in Melbourne. Photo / Getty

Meanwhile, Swiss maestro Roger Federer said there was a lot of things happening behind the scenes and said he would take soundings from other players on their views.

"It's definitely interesting times, I'd like to call it, not bad times in our sport. It's maybe also a bit of a transition time. So it will be interesting to see what's going to happen," he said.

According to The Telegraph, a strongly worded email was sent out by player council member Vasek Pospisil to the players ranked between 50 and 100, which calls for the workforce to "start acting and running like a business not like a bunch of scared kids … we need a CEO that first and foremost represents OUR interests".

 

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Pospisil's argument has much in common with last year's suggestions from Djokovic that tennis should have a player's union that is separate from the ATP.

As Pospisil writes "the governance structure of the ATP favours the interests of the tournaments and its [their] owners … It's time for a change and it can be achieved by staying unified and demanding what we deserve for our hard work".

ATP boss Chris Kermode. Photo / Photosport

There are three tournament representatives on the ATP board and three player representatives: namely Justin Gimelstob (the commentator and ex-player who is facing assault charges in Los Angeles), David Egdes (Gimelstob's close associate from the Tennis Channel, and a temporary board member who came in less than two months ago) and Alex Inglot (formerly director of communications at the betting data firm Sportradar).

Australian coach Darren Cahill, meanwhile, was quick to rail against the potential change on Twitter in support of Kermode, who he said had brought significant increases in prize money and facility upgrades to the tour.

"I'd be stunned if Chris Kermode is removed. ATP needs stability right now," he wrote.

Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka told the Telegraph that he cannot understand why Kermode needs to be removed.

"It [the vote] is big for the sport," said Wawrinka.

"The most important will be to keep our president. All the things going on behind [the scenes] to try to put pressure on some people, to try to move the actual person, doesn't feel clean, doesn't feel good.

"If you look what's happened the last few years with our president, I think he only helped the tennis to be in a better place. I personally think if you look only at the results – about the tennis, about the image, about the prize money and about everything – he did a great job by upgrading everything.

"I also think that some people have some personal interest for sure. But at the end of the day I also think that you need to see the big picture. What's the reason for changing? Is the prize money not high enough? Is the calendar not good enough? I don't know. But there should be a reason to move someone at that spot after a few years going quite positive for the tennis. That's maybe where it's a bit strange."

 

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