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ATP Player Council Members Dropping Likes Flies • Wimbledon • Tennis Update

By Alix Ramsay


A new tournament, a new venue but the same old problems. Fair enough, Wimbledon is not exactly “new”, but as the tennis caravan makes its way round the world, it has pitched camp in SW19 for the coming two weeks. The camp, at least, is new.


And what is the first thing that comes anywhere close to making a news story? The ATP Player Council, Novak Djokovic’s involvement in same and how everyone else feels about it. Have we not been here before?


Clearly, several people do not feel too good about any of it as Jamie Murray, Robin Haase and Dani Vallverdu have all resigned from the Player Council as of Friday. There is also the rumour of a couple of more resignations to come.


This was all sparked by the appointment of Weller Evans as the Americas representative – albeit a temporary appointment – on Friday. Looking to replace the now disgraced Justin Gimelstob, the council had two choices: Evans or Nicolas Lapentti. The council was split down the middle – five votes apiece for each candidate. Just as it had been at the last board meeting in Rome during the tournament there.


That left the casting vote up to the player reps on the ATP board – Alex Inglot and David Egdes (Egdes, of course, being Gimelstob’s best mate and employer at the Tennis Channel until Gimelstob handed in his notice following his conviction for “battery with serious bodily injury” earlier this year ).


One source of inside information says only one board member voted for Evans, another says they both did. Either way, it was enough to break the deadlock. Evans is now on the board but only until the end of this year when the whole, complicated and turgid process begins again. Cue Muzz the Elder, Haase and Vallverdu voting with their feet.


Apparently, the Player Council meeting started just after 5pm on Friday and went on until past midnight. That’s a lot of mind-numbing discussion and blood-boiling conflicts to deal with before the start of the biggest tennis tournament in the world. So, any chance Djoko might step back and just focus on winning matches? Not a bit of it.


“I’ve obviously considered various options,” the world No.1 said. “I did consider also stepping down. I think my team wants me to step down, honestly. It’s obvious.


“I feel something is telling me from inside that I’m supposed to still stay there because I feel that we are part of the big transitional phase in tennis at the moment.


“Having a top player, I feel it means a lot to the group because under the current structure and system, player council, group of 10 players, is representing a hundred plus players around the world. That is, so to say, legally how I can make a difference, I feel, within the system, and understand what goes on inside of the governance, tournaments and so forth.


“This valuable information you can’t always get if you’re not part of the council. So I still feel I can make my contribution. Even though it goes against probably my schedule, certainly tennis at times, but I feel there is a greater good, I guess. That’s why I’m there.”


The altruistic Djokovic, then, ain’t going anywhere. Perhaps if he did, we would not have landed up in this mess in the first place. But that is an argument for another day – this particular day has been long enough already and even if Djoko is willing to blather on for seven hours in a meeting, some of us have got lives to lead. All we know is that the players are getting restless and this row will rumble on for months.


Apart from a mass ATP walk-out and a lot of he-said, he-said, somebody-leaked-something arguments, Wimbledon is almost ready for business.


On the way in this morning – as well as bumping into some of the 10sballs team – we saw reassuring signs of the AELTC doing what the AELTC does best: attending to detail.


Pity the poor bloke painting a large concrete block with a second coat of Wimbledon green. He was outside on Somerset Road in the baking heat (it was around 90 degrees which is fainting weather for my pale, thermostatically challenged people) making sure that the topcoat was pristine and there was no, nasty, common concrete showing through.


On we went to the inner sanctum where we found a lass varnishing the counter of a programme seller’s stand to within an inch of its life. No speck of dust, no mosquito foot or wing print nor, heaven forfend, stray brush hair was to be allowed to spoil the perfect gloss finish. And that is what makes Wimbledon Wimbledon.


Once inside the hallowed grounds, it was pandemonium as usual. The last couple of days before the start of The Championships are hellish for denizens of the press bunker (even if it is a pretty nice bunker by grand slam standards – we have windows and natural light and everything. Really, that’s a huge bonus).


The sports editors are on high alert but, as ever, are as indecisive as ever: “Give me 800 on Fed, 800 on Serena, a sidebar on Rafa and another on Ash…. no wait, make that 700 on Fed, 600 on Serena, combine Ash and Raf and do me a diary….hang on – call me in 40 minutes and I’ll tell you what I need…” But we bumble through because we always do.


So when you read your Sunday papers as you enjoy your Sunday brunch and plan you lazy Sunday afternoon, spare a thought for the hacks who wrote those Sunday papers. We, poor buggers, have to do it all again for the Monday papers.


But before you read those Monday papers, let us tell you that Serena probably won’t play mixed dubs with Muzz the Younger (her dodgy left knee that has plagued her for the past three months is now behaving itself and she really doesn’t think that she ought to push her luck), Muzz the Younger is still looking for a mixed dubs partner (Serena would be a “solid” partner given her 14 grand slam dubs titles) and will play mixed because the weather forecast is looking good (he was “spooked” when the doubles boys said that the schedule can get a bit brutal if it rains) while Ash Barty feels much the same as she did before she became world No.1 (no extra pressure) and Naomi Osaka feels much better now that she is not world No.1 (much less pressure).


You read it here first, folks.

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