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Tennis News From Madrid • Roger Federer Calls For Chris Kermode To Stay On As ATP President

By Alix Ramsay

 

Anyone who imagined that the resignation of Justin Gimelstob from the board of directors at the ATP and from the commentary team at the Tennis Channel would be an end of this unsavoury tale of tennis folks gone bad was sorely mistaken.

 

Gimelstob, now serving a three year probation period with 60 days of community service to come, along with 52 weeks of anger management sessions, following a “no contest” to a charge of battery two weeks ago, is just one part – albeit a big and headline-grabbing part – of this sorry saga.

 

As reported last week, Andy Murray was the first of the top players to break cover and have his say on Gimelstob’s continued presence on the board of directors. Unsurprisingly, Murray was appalled that the American could still be in a position of authority after his conviction. And then Gimelstob resigned.

 

No matter: Stan Wawrinka presented his argument in a letter to The Times in London. That Gimelstob had finally done the decent thing and resigned was a relief; that men’s tennis was left in chaos was a matter for dismay.

 

“There is no place in our sport for those who behave like Justin,” Wawrinka wrote. “The lack of responses from people involved in the game, particularly at the beginning of this saga, when he was charged last December, was alarming. This is a situation where silence amounts to complicity.

 

“My fellow players on the council should never have been put in the position where they had responsibility for deciding whether Justin should have remained in his position. It is the duty of the board representatives to lead by example and protect the players. They should have immediately managed this controversy. Instead they shamefully voted in December for Justin to continue with his duties.”

 

Since that vote last year to retain Gimelstob’s services, he has been allowed to vote on the removal of Chris Kermode as executive chairman and president of the ATP.

 

As a player representative on the board of directors, Gimelstob and his two fellow player reps, were supposed to express the views of the players. But most of the world’s top 100 wanted Kermode to stay. The 10-man player council could not reach a decision (they were split five for and five against with the council president, Djokovic, being in the ‘against’ camp) and so left it to the player reps on the board. And they represented the players by voting, all three of them, to remove Kermode. Kermode’s contract will not be renewed at the end of this year.

 

Wawrinka is clearly disgusted by all the shenanigans and particularly by the actions of those who claim to represent him and his fellow professionals.

 

“At the end of last year, we saw record results for the ATP and men’s tennis.” Wawrinka continued. “Now look at us. This political chaos is caused by a handful of people with personal agendas and, more disturbingly, with no alternative plan to follow up on their concerted plot to remove Chris Kermode, the executive chairman and president, earlier this year.”

 

Now, though, as the men’s tournament at the Mutua Madrid Open, prepares to creak into life, Roger Federer has launched a new campaign: bring back Kermode. He has kept his views to himself of late, mainly due to the fact that he has not played since the Miami Open at the end of March, but now he is putting his weight behind Kermode and opened the door to the possibility to the president remaining in place.

 

The business of finding candidates for position is left to professional head hunters who are tasked with presenting a list of potential candidates to the board. The list has to be approved by the player council who could, in theory, reject every suggestion and then call for Kermode to stay on. In order for that to happen, a few of the current council would have to change their opinion and vote differently to the way they voted before. And Federer has been speaking to some of those council members (but not Djokovic) to get a feel for the lie of the land.

 

“I was speaking to some of the players on the council to get a feel where they were standing,” he said. “I’m happy that the decision was taken by Justin and that now we can move forward and really like learn from what had happened also.

 

“It may be that he [Kermode] should be put back into the mix. But then again I don’t know if he would want to be after everything that happened. Sometimes when these things happen, it is like OK, I had a good run, and it’s OK to go. I haven’t seen Chris for some time now. I only saw him briefly in Indian Wells and I haven’t spoken to him at all so I don’t know where he stands. I don’t know exactly the process, when the votes are happening, when the new CEO, all this stuff, gets decided.”

 

On Monday, Rafa Nadal and Djokovic will both appear before the world’s media for their pre-tournament press conferences. Nadal has made no secret of his support for Kermode in the past; Djokovic made his views clear in the way he voted to get rid of the current president and executive chairman.

 

But if Federer can persuade a couple more player council members to change their minds about Kermode, the world No.1 and player council president would be left in the minority on his own council. And in a democracy, a true democracy, minorities do not win, no matter how the player representatives on the board of directors have behaved in the past.

 

Gimelstob has gone but yet the story has barely begun.

epa05127948 Executive chairman and president of Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Chris Kermode reacts as he speaks during a joint press conference at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, Australia, 27 January 2016. Governing bodies of tennis have announced on 27 January an independent review into their anti-corruption unit following recent allegations regarding international tennis match fixing emerged after an aired joint Buzzfeed BBC report last week. EPA/SAM MOOY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

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