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A Tennis Tale • Roger • Rafa • Novak • ATP Board And A Missing Cape

By Alix Ramsay 

Scene: The Federer household. Roger is packing in preparation for his trip to Cincinnati. His wife, Mirka, is downstairs fiddling with the DVD player. She is not best pleased.
Roger Federer (busying himself around the bedroom): Right, let’s see: rackets? Eight in racket bag. Check. Socks? All 23-and-half pairs of them? In holdall. We really must get a new washing machine. Check. Shirts? 12, packed and ready to go. Check. Shorts? Eight pairs, packed with shirts. Check. Now then, superhero underpants to be worn over shorts? They’ll be in the knicker drawer. Ah, yes, here they are. Better take the spare pair, too. Check. And finally, superhero cape? That ought to be in the wardrobe…let’s have a look…suits, suits, suits, shirts, shirts, jackets, casual-yet-still-stylish-trousers….hang on, where’s my cape? Mirka! Have you seen my cape?
Mirka Federer: What’s that, love? By the way, next time you’re on breakfast duty, keep an eye on Leo. He’s stuffed his toast in the DVD player again. Kleiner Affe*. And that’s the polite term. Really, love, you have to watch him like a hawk. I think the jam’s dripped into the workings…he’s really done it this time.
RF: Have you seen my cape? My superhero cape.
MF: Ummm…oh, yeah. It’s at the dry cleaners.
RF: Why?
MF: Lenny wore it to a friend’s fancy dress party.
RF: You do know it has superpowers, don’t you? He’s not supposed to touch it. When will it be ready?
MF: A week next Thursday. What do you need it for, anyway?
RF: For Cincinnati and the US Open. Me and Rafa are going to save tennis.
MF: What, again? I thought you were done with all of that nonsense years ago.
RF: I know, but Rafa said he would if I did and I said I would if he did – so we both did and, surprise, surprise, everyone wanted us back again. Look, Lenny really shouldn’t be wearing that cape. He doesn’t know how powerful it can be.
MF: Well I think the mothballs must have affected it somewhat: he came last in the fancy dress competition.
RF: How come? What did he go as?
MF: Harry Potter in his cape of invisibility. I don’t think anyone could see him. Not until he got ice cream all down the front of it at any rate…
RF: Now what am I going to do? I can’t save tennis without a cape. And Rafa will be wearing his. I’ll look silly if I’ve only got my saviour’s skivvies on…
MF: I bet Rafa’s got a spare one. And wait a minute, Andy’s back. He’s bound to have a cape you could borrow.
RF: Yes, but Andy’s are all in tartan and that’s really not a good look on me. I suppose I could phone Rafa….
MF (who has now given up on the electronics downstairs and has wandered into the bedroom): So is this the two of you reprising your Batman and Robin routine? The Dynamic Duo chasing down the Djoker and the forces of evil? Did you see what I did there?
RF: Yes, yes… I got it. But listen, we are doing this to broker some sort of peace, to try and put things back together again. So no more gags like that. Mirka, what’s that in your hand?
MF: It’s the complete boxed set of Game of Thrones that your mother gave us at Christmas – every disc of it glued together with apricot jam. Oh no, and now its dripping on the carpet…
RF and MF (in unison): LEO!!!!!!!!
*It’s German for ‘little monkey’

And so Roger and Rafa are getting the band back together. The cavalry of superstar superheroes has ridden into Cincinnati where, for the first time, they will catch up with their player council president, Novak Djokovic. Their election to the player council was announced last week and it seems as if those left on the council after Jamie Murray, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Robin Haase resigned, welcomed the big boys back with open arms.
Vasek Pospisil, one of the remaining council members, claimed that the group was now all-powerful and was in a position to get things done after months of gridlock and interminable meetings.
“These guys, along with Novak, they’re the three greatest players of all time, and that carries a lot of weight,” Pospisil said. “If they’re aligned and in the same boat with the same goals in mind, there’s a lot that can be accomplished.”
The question is whether they are all aligned in the same boat. In March, both Roger and Rafa were less than impressed with the player council’s failure to support Chris Kermode. Split down the middle, the 10-man council left the decision to the ATP board where the player reps – including the now disgraced Justin Gimelstob – failed to back the renewal of Kermode’s contract as Executive Chairman and President.
Back then, both Roger and Rafa complained that they had not been consulted about the Kermode issue. Novak, for his part, said that they could always have come to him to express their opinions. Roger, though, claimed that Novak had been “too busy” to speak to him before the vote. Clearly, there were tensions at the top end of the game. And now those tensions will have to be eased if the Big Three are to sit peacefully around the table to discuss the agenda for the player meeting before the US Open.
Just to add a little spice to the mix, Andy Murray is back in town. Now back on the singles court – he will decide later this week whether he will ask for a wild card to the US Open – he is never shy of voicing his views. Indeed, he was the first of the big-name players to comment on Gimelstob’s continued presence on the board following his sentencing for felony battery. (Gimelstob finally resigned in May). And as his brother was a part of the divided and argumentative council until July, he will be fully up to speed with the politicking.
Djokovic has become increasingly tetchy when questioned about ATP matters while his team have tried to persuade him to give up his role on the council. Even he thinks it has become too big a distraction and has affected his game over the past six months. Now the world No.1 has his two biggest on-court rivals sitting across from him in the board room. Suddenly the stakes have been raised. The coming two weeks should prove fascinating.
Oh, and by the way, there will some tennis going on in Cincinnati, too. Just so you know.

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