One of the elements of the experience Tim Mayotte brings to his candidacy for the Americas players representative spot on the ATP Tour board of directors is that he’s been there before.
And not only that, he was right there when the ATP Tour broke away from the Men’s Tennis Pro Council to form its own association.
That was the now legendary “parking lot press conference” at the 1988 US Open.
(You can see his head in the photo above, peeking out just to the left of the head of the CEO of the “new” ATP, Hamilton Jordan).
It was a crazy time in men’s tennis. It’s hard to imagine now, when the ATP Player Council and the tournament directors’ side are having trouble getting along, that back then there were three elements on the equivalent of the board.
Back then, the ITF, which now runs its own ship and is constantly butting heads with the ATP, had a co-equal say on how tennis was run.
Another flashpoint in the Tour’s history was back in 2008, in the wake of Hamburg’s exclusion from the original version of the Masters Series, and the lawsuits that ensued.
There’s a full-circle element to this. Because according to the story, a much younger Rafael Nadal was adamant that he wanted then-CEO Etienne de Villiers out “immediately”. And he did not have unanimity on that.
These days, Nadal is firmly on the side that wanted outgoing CEO Chris Kermode, who lost a board vote in March and will leave at the end of the year, to stay on for another term.
The other connection? The Player Council, which had just been elected, had just voted two men to open “player rep” positions on the board.
Who were those two men? Justin Gimelstob and current Tennis Channel vice-president David Egdes.
Egdes had left the board recently. But he returned after the ouster of Roger Rasheed last fall, and was duly elected to the post at Indian Wells in March. The third player rep was appointed – it was current Roger Federer coach Ivan Ljubicic, who was Council chairman.
The other interesting element? The issues 11 years ago aren’t that different from the issues now.
Same issues, earlier era
From the Bricker piece:
“Two key issues it will take up when it reforms are (a) how to increase their authority and (b) whether there should be a restructuring at the executive level of the ATP, regardless of whether de Villiers stays or goes.
Under the concept discussed in preliminary talks, there would be separate CEO and chairman positions at the top of the ATP hierarchy, and one might not necessarily report to the other.”
That latter issue dovetails with what many have been saying about the current structure – that the CEO job is too much for one, with all of the conflicts therein.
Flashing back to 1988
There are two terrific pieces on the ATP Tour site that chronicle the momentous events of 30 years ago.
One takeaway is that the ATP was a … $3 million/year organization at the time. Total. Now one player gets that for winning one Grand Slam.
And Mayotte was there.
Mayotte and the dawn of the ATP Tour
Here he is, from our Monday interview, talking about how those experiences in 1988 help him understand the current players’ issues and challenges.
“Hamilton Jordan came on board. He was very charismatic. And after initially trying to work with the Slams and the other tournament directors, he said, ‘this is crazy. We have to go our own way.’ And he quickly galvanized a number of the top players to say, ‘let’s start your own thing.’
The initial elements were myself, (Mats) Wilander, (Yannick) Noah, Maybe one or two other top-10 guys announcing – in a press conference in the parking lot.
Jordan being such a good politician, he realized the USTA made a gaffe by not letting us do it the pressroom. And then they offered the pressroom, but he didn’t take it. So we got quite a bit of press. We were off and running. It was a real exciting time. But it was difficult.
“This makes me remember what it’s like being a player, people asking you questions and you didn’t know much about contracts and bylaws.
I wanted to win Wimbledon, basically.
“But I also knew what Jordan was saying made sense, and that he was smart – and obviously his credentials really helped. He had negotiated with Fidel Castro. (Former ATP CEO) Mark Miles used to say it was much easier to negotiate with Castro than it was with McEnroe.”
“The same tensions then, are now. But the numbers are much bigger now. And the exposure just because of social media is much more.”
(Photos: wire, Tennis.Life, eBay, ATP Tour website, Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy)