I wrote last month of the disappointing news that ATP president and executive chairman Chris Kermode was not having his contract extended to cover a third three-year term, despite the massive growth in profile and prize money that the men’s game has enjoyed during his tenure.
One of the prime movers behind that decision was former player Justin Gimelstob, one of the six ATP Board members. It had been strongly suggested that the American fancied the top job for himself. But now Gimelstob has been forced to resign following a conviction for assault.
With grand-slam champions Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka both making comments along the lines of not seeing how it was possible for Gimelstob to retain his position, his attempt to cling on became untenable. Wawrinka said there was “no place in our sport for those who behave like Justin” and that the “lack of response from people involved in the game, particularly at the beginning of this saga, when he was charged last September, was alarming.”
Rightly Gimelstob has stepped down from his role with the governing body of men’s tennis, with immediate effect. It seems likely that his involvement in an administrative capacity is over for the foreseeable future. As per the statements from Wawrinka, and others, there is an argument to be made that Gimelstob should have been ejected from the Board long before a vote took place at the Indian Wells tournament in March.
At the time of the announcement that Kermode’s contract was not being renewed, several of the world’s top players, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, had said they hadn’t been consulted – and implied that they might have been in favour of a different decision. A spiky Novak Djokovic, currently president of the ATP player council, claimed he was acting in the interests of the players, especially the lower-ranked players, in voting for a change at the top. The Serb has always taken the view that Kermode favoured tournament organisers over the players when those two interests did not align.
However, with Gimelstob gone, the balance of power may have shifted back in Kermode’s favour. Although, on the face of it, it’s too late for Kermode, in practice there is no reason the decision could not be revisited – after all, no replacement has yet been announced.
Intriguingly, Federer said at the weekend of Kermode’s contract renewal: “Maybe it should be put back in the mix.” The highly respected Juan Martin del Potro has echoed that sentiment, saying “I love to see him around us, working for us”.
Kermode, as I wrote last month, is a class act. He has kept his own counsel and hasn’t said a word in public about the unedifying events that have unfolded over the past month or two.
Wawrinka has said that he wants to be represented “by people with clear, strong ethical values”. By his behaviour now and throughout his time in tennis administration, Kermode has proved that he fits that description.