INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Novak Djokovic performed his first official tennis match in additional than a month on Saturday evening, defeating the American Bjorn Fratangelo in straight units on the BNP Paribas Open.
However Djokovic has hardly been taking an prolonged break from official tennis enterprise.
Again at No. 1 on this planet by a hefty margin, he’s additionally wielding his renewed clout off courtroom as president of the ATP participant council. Because of his maneuvering, the boys’s tour is in want of a brand new chief government together with some collective objective and peace of thoughts, that are prone to stay extra elusive than Djokovic and his allies may like.
As ever, the stress is between the gamers, who understandably need to maximize their earnings in a brutally aggressive sport, and their paymasters, who personal and function the tournaments and understandably would quite maintain prize cash underneath tight rein. However the uncommon and inconvenient factor in males’s tennis is that the gamers and paymasters are a part of the identical internally conflicted group: the ATP.
“We’re actually blocked,” stated Gilles Simon, the French participant and a former council member. “The construction works towards us and the imbalance being already there between the tournaments and the gamers, the imbalance endures.”
Acrimony is inevitable. Progress just isn’t. Final week, Djokovic and the gamers appeared to ship a robust message when the participant representatives on the ATP Tour’s board of administrators voted towards extending the contract of Chris Kermode, the ATP’s government chairman and president, who will now be obliged to step down on the finish of 2019.
However such a political energy play is just intimidating if the gamers are actually united, which appears removed from the case.
The participant council, in a nonbinding vote earlier than the board assembly, couldn’t attain settlement on whether or not to advocate or reject Kermode’s extension.
In an age of fixed communication, the largest stars are one way or the other struggling to attach. Roger Federer, a former president of the participant council, stated Sunday that he had reached out to Djokovic earlier than the vote solely to be informed that Djokovic couldn’t squeeze him in.
“That’s onerous to grasp for me,” Federer stated.
Rafael Nadal, a supporter of Kermode and continuity, stated his cellphone was primed and prepared, however no calls or texts got here his means.
This sounds extra like highschool than a world skilled sport.
“They’re representing us, so usually they need to ask, what’s our opinion? Not in each small choice, however in huge selections,” Nadal stated. “For my part, this one was an enormous choice.”
The gamers and the tournaments every have three representatives on the ATP board of administrators. The chairman — Kermode since 2014 — has the flexibility to solid a tiebreaking vote however would like to keep away from it when doable for worry of endangering help from one aspect of the divide.
It’s a tough dance even in the perfect of circumstances, and Kermode appears to have stepped on the mistaken toes.
Djokovic didn’t vote him out. That was as much as the participant representatives that he and the participant council have supported or voted into place: David Egdes, a Tennis Channel government; Alex Inglot, the director of communications at Sportradar; and Justin Gimelstob, the Tennis Channel commentator and former American participant, who stays probably the most polarizing back-room determine within the sport and has remained in place regardless of dealing with felony battery expenses.
Below the ATP’s voting system, Kermode wanted majority help (a minimum of two votes) from every camp to proceed. He acquired all three of the match representatives’ votes however apparently did not get any of the participant representatives’ votes.
In a letter to ATP workers final week after his ouster, Kermode stated it was “ironic” that he was leaving after “the gamers have achieved a number of the biggest beneficial properties within the historical past of the ATP Tour previously 5 years.”
Kermode, a former low-level professional participant and high-level match director, is a sophisticated and genial Briton who is aware of tips on how to work a room however apparently not each boardroom.
Operating the ATP Tour is a compromised place to start with; the true energy in tennis lies with the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, which operate independently. Nonetheless, he navigated his place of weak point for greater than 5 years, securing sponsorships and a hard-won prize cash improve from the highest tier of ATP tournaments.
He additionally led the creation of recent occasions just like the Subsequent Gen ATP Finals, designed to advertise younger gamers like 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who will ultimately need to step out of the ink-black shadow solid by Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
“From what I do know of Chris, he was unbelievable,” Shapovalov stated.
However clearly not everyone seems to be within the Kermode fan membership.
He’s seen by a number of the gamers as a “match man,” a characterization he rejects. Others grumble about his dealing with of the ATP Cup, which will likely be relaunched within the opening week of the 2020 season in Australia.
There may be additionally criticism that he didn’t safe extra prize cash beneficial properties, above all from the 4 Grand Slam occasions. As council president, Federer as soon as spearheaded a profitable push for main will increase, however with Grand Slam revenues rising, the priority is that prize cash has not saved tempo.
Federer and Nadal might re-enter the fray. They talked tennis governance over espresso at Federer’s rented home right here final week. However for now, it’s the 31-year-old Djokovic’s flip to steer on courtroom and off. He’s multitasking at some extent in his profession when household time is ever extra vital to him and when he’s once more on the verge of holding all 4 of the Grand Slam singles titles.
Why trouble with tennis politics at this stage?, I requested him.
“I are inclined to ask that myself, as nicely,” he stated with a smile. “However I really feel that it’s my accountability, in a means, as a high participant to contribute to the game in that means, as nicely.”
Even when he charts a steadier course within the months to come back, placing a extra “participant pleasant” ATP chief in place appears to be like all however unattainable with the match representatives successfully possessing veto energy on the board.
Altering the governance construction, as Djokovic has instructed, sounds practically as tough.
Craig Tiley, the chief government of Tennis Australia and a driving pressure within the Australian Open’s progress, could be a robust ATP chief and has been within the chief government submit previously.
However with mutual belief at low ebb and no participant union in sight, it’s possible a compromise candidate will take over.
Positive, tennis wants change and recent concepts. However while you tear down a constructing, it appears finest to have a transparent thought what’s going to stand as a replacement.