INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – By having his media availability on Thursday, world No. 1 and ATP Tour Player Council president Novak Djokovic all but assured the main topic of conversation.
There was no doubt most of the journalists’ questions to him would concern the future direction of the ATP Tour
(Oh, there was one about golf, too).
After a six-hour Player Council meeting Tuesday night, the ATP Tour board of directors met Thursday morning, The board was to vote on whether ATP CEO Chris Kermode would be renewed for a third term, or out at the end of 2019.
As we wrote Wednesday night, it appeared that the Brit was going to be out because he needed the majority of the three votes on the players’ side. And it was unlikely he was going to get them.
There were rumblings back in the U.K. overnight that Kermode’s job would be safe.
But, in the end, it went the way most expected.
We spoke to one tennis insider who had been in contact with Kermode since the decision. And he was said to be “gutted”.
Player Council prez mum
Djokovic wouldn’t say much. He said he didn’t want to expose himself to a potential breach of confidentiality by revealing what his personal opinion was on the subject.
We do know, from a number of sources, that the Serb was one of the players who wanted a change at the top.
Djokovic also wouldn’t readily accept the comments of Rafael Nadal and others, who have criticized the Player Council’s inadequate efforts at communicating with them about this and other issues in the game.
In fact, he turned it around on the those players, when pressed. Djokovic essentially said that communication is a two-way street. And there was nothing stopping any player who had questions or concerns to pick up the phone.
Here is some of what he said on the subject during his Thursday press conference.
Reaction on both sides
The ATP’s announcement on the matter was a mere four paragraphs on its website.
The quote from Kermode.
“It’s been a privilege to serve as ATP Executive Chairman & President since 2014 and I’m very proud of what we have achieved during this time. I would like to thank everyone at the ATP, and all the players and tournaments for the support over the years. I remain fully dedicated to the role for the remainder of my term and wish the organization every success in the future.”
Stan Wawrinka’s coach, Magnus Norman, weighed in. And the Tweet was “liked” by his player, which is as close to an official endorsement as we’re going to find.
— Magnus Norman (@normansweden) March 7, 2019
This Tweet from the media director for the Queen’s Club event (and also a tennis commentator, and a presenter, and a podcaster) sort of sums up a legitimate question. Although it’s not hard to tell where his preference lies.
Overall, the British tennis media (an overwhelmingly male, fairly longstanding group) seem to stand firmly behind the affable and approachable Kermode.
Given that nobody that made the decision to oust Chris Kermode seems to be prepared to say that they did, we’re still waiting for someone, anyone, to come forward to say that they think it was the right thing to do, and why.
— David Law (@DavidLawTennis) March 7, 2019
Veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez – a player who is crossing the aisle this spring to become the official tournament director of the Masters 1000 Madrid Open, gives it a thumbs down.
Very bad news for our sport ..👎🎾
— Feliciano López (@feliciano_lopez) March 8, 2019
Affable, approachable leader – and a former player
From the outside, it’s difficult to find anything that has gone drastically sideways during Kermode’s tenure. The game has seemed to be rolling along just fine, other than the standoff on dividing up the revenue pie between tournaments and players.
This remains the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic era, though. And a future direction obviously involves the very real and looming landscape that doesn’t include them.
Clearly there are Player Council members who were adamantly opposed to him staying on in the job. But as Law wrote in his Tweet, it’s been difficult to discern exactly why they wanted him out.
The fallout with this is that during arguably the most crucial time in recent years, with the ITF/Davis Cup drama, the ATP Cup in process, and the decision on a possible new home for the ATP Tour Finals, there will be a lame duck CEO at the wheel.
That’s far from an ideal situation – in any business.
Is that reason enough to renew Kermode in his job? Maybe not, but it definitely should be a factor.
Do they have someone lined up to replace him? Doubtful. Without a serious effort on due diligence and an executive search, a new appointee likely wouldn’t pass muster.
Is there someone on the planet who could do as good a job as Kermode – a better job? Surely.
Will the ATP Tour be able to find that person? We’ll see.
It feels like there’s a lot more to this whole situation that may well come out in the coming months – regardless of that confidentiality situation.