Well, you can’t say Bernard Giudicelli didn’t repay the favor.
France had a weighted Grand Slam say in the crucial vote on the radical Davis Cup changes this last August.
And the International Tennis Federation needed his votes.
So the ITF stood by the embattled French Tennis Federation president despite some legal trouble at home.
The ITF passed its proposed Davis Cup reform at the August annual general meetings in Orlando, Fla.
But on Friday, as first brought to public attention by German federation vice-president Dirk Hordorff (also a member of Vasek Pospisil’s coaching team), Giudicelli resigned from his ITF duties.
Giudicelli had been on the ITF’s board of directors for three years, longer than he’s even been FFT president. The Corsican also had been the chairman of the Davis Cup committee for nearly that long.
The French Federation confirmed Hordorff’s news.
One of the big powers in tennis, France therefore does not have a representative on the ITF board for the first time in eons.
Was Giudicelli deserting a sinking (Davis Cup) ship? Was this the understanding once the Davis Cup reforms passed?
No doubt it will all eventually come out.
And you thought American politics were full of backroom deals and subterfuge.
ITF does Giudicelli a solid
A clause in the ITF’s constitution stated that members couldn’t serve on the ITF’s board of directors if they have a criminal conviction against them in their own country.
During a March 2017 press conference, Giudicelli said he wouldn’t endorse Lyon tournament director Gilles Moretton’s candidacy as president of a new French tennis league. Moretton, he suggested, was complicit in a ticket-reselling scheme that rocked French tennis.
It was a scandal that also had implicated Giudicelli’s predecessor, Jean Gachassin. Basically, it ended the former rugby player’s longtime reign over the sport in France.
Giudicelli was found guilty in Sept. 2017. He was fined 10,000 euros, plus 5,000 euros in damages and interest to Moretton. Another 2,500 euros were earmarked for the plaintiff’s court costs.
As well, Giudicelli was involved in another situation going back to his days as the head of the Corsican league. He was accused of having limited the call to tenders for the building of a 2.8 million-Euro tennis centre in the small (3,800) town of Lucciana to the league’s website. The rules in such projects, with a certain percentage of government participation, required publishing it in a proper newspaper. In other words, suspicions of favoritism.
A tearful Guidicelli was acquitted of that in June.
The Giudicelli amendment
Amidst all that, the ITF’s board of directors proposed a “Giudicelli tweak” to its constitution in July. The motion aimed to only require a resignation from the board if the charge “would constitute a criminal offence in the majority of jurisdictions in which the sport is played”.
Defamantion is only a civil offense in many countries.
The ITF board proposed the amendment to allow it to “have discretion in such matters”. The vote took place during the same August annual general meeting where the Davis Cup’s fate was decided.
It’s unclear how many people actually bought that story.
As did, perhaps not coincidentally, the Davis Cup vote.
It’s worth noting again that just about every current and past French Davis Cup player stood firmly, publicly against the proposed Davis Cup reforms.
The French won their long-awaited Davis Cup at home in Lille last November. They will play for another next month, also in Lille. The emotions the country’s sporting public has experienced as a result are something that would disappear in the new neutral-venue plan.
Despite that, Giudicelli gave his 12 votes to the “yes” side.
Power base weakened
Giudicelli’s power position within the ITF had been chipped away amid all the controversy. And L’Équipe writes that Giudicelli has shelved ambitions to become the next ITF president. At least for now.
And while he has another 2 1/2 years in his term as FFT president, L’Équipe posits that the naming of a new federation general manager, against Giudicelli’s wishes, speaks to the weakening of his power base on the home front.
The Davis Cup team, which includes the top players in his country, pretty much froze him out during the successful semifinal against Spain in September.
The French team didn’t allow Giudicelli in their locker room at the September semifinal against Spain. The players reportedly didn’t shake hands with him during the draw ceremony. And Giudicelli even hired a new PR rep for the weekend to handle any issues. He didn’t grant any interviews.
And he also failed to invite Gachassin to the tie, and to the tradition “former presidents lunch” on the Davis Cup weekend. Gachassin said that was because he publicly condemned Giudicelli’s comments about Serena Williams’ French Open attire.
French results weak in 2018
The last two weeks are the first that France hasn’t had at least one player in the ATP Tour’s top 20 since … 2006.
Giudicelli’s platform when he successfully ran for federation president was all based on bringing back a “winning” culture.
The “Big Four” of Gasquet, Monfils, Tsonga and Simon are aging out.
And the president has been publicly critical of the mental fortitude of Lucas Pouille. Pouille, the top-ranked French player, literally is the only potential champion in the (male) pipeline at the moment.
The FFT has more than a million registered members. And it’s a huge sport in that country.
Which is one reason all of its political machinations and boardroom deals are so fascinating.
It’s hard for those of us in countries where tennis is more of a niche sport to fathom , for example, why you would stream a debate between three candidates for federation president on Facebook. Or even have a democratic-style election for president, for that matter!