The deadline for prospective candidates for the upcoming vacancy on the ATP Board of directors as Americans player representative was Monday.
And one of those candidates, a former top-10 player with an impressive resumé, is Massachusetts native Tim Mayotte.
Mayotte is from a tennis-playing family out of Springfield, Mass. – and widely recognized as the best player ever to have come out of New England.
He is a co-founder of the Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy at the Thoreau Club in Concord, Mass.
A former Player Council president and ATP Tour board member, the 58-year-old was moved to run for the soon-to-be-available spot on the board by recent events involving the current holder of that seat, Justin Gimelstob.
Tennis.Life spoke to Mayotte Monday, to sound him out about Gimelstob, the current state of the ATP, and what his priorities would be should be be elected to the board.
On Justin Gimelstob
“My position is that he should not be serving the ATP, no question. And that became even more clear when I read the transcript (Tweeted by Ben Rothenberg). That he would willingly do what he did means he’s not the person you want driving your players.
I don’t want to be represented by him. I think Justin will get his act together, and take the right steps, but he should not be governing the ATP players.
About pondering a run for the board
“I started to think about it a number of months ago when the incident came to light. It was definitely a catalyst for me thinking about it, but my thinking solidified over the last couple of months. I have a set of experiences that I don’t think anyone else has had. I was there for the founding of the Tour. I’ve been outside of that, been political in the trenches for a long time. I think that combination of skills is very rare. And it also allows me to come with no ego.
When I served (on the board) before I was so fresh off the Tour. My identity was still tied into being a player. And now, I come in with a real freedom to act in the best way possible for the game and the players, and not worry where I fit in in the pecking order.”
On the disconnect at the top
“I feel that this is just an incredible time in men’s tennis, with these top three, top four. I’m disheartened to see the discord between the top guys, because I think if you can get all the players – but especially those three or four – on the same page, you can accomplish almost anything.
It’s sad to see the communications issues. From the outside, you have the three most important players at cross-purposes. And the players will be able to set their agenda depending on having those 3-4 players on board. There has been much goodwill built up with those guys. So I’d have to get in to see the nitty-gritty, what their individual thinking is. But I think that would be a huge piece of getting things back on track.”
On what he thinks the position involves
“It’s a critical, critical position. You don’t realize it, I think, until you’re in it. Here you are with the major decisions – outside anything to do with the Slams – impacting the top of the game. What we’ve seen with (Novak) Djokovic, he’s willing to use it. Which is a great sign. But hopefully we can get the players using the board position in the best possible way.
Inherently, there’s tension between the various groups that will never change. Between the higher and lower ranked, the singles and doubles players, and all the various needs. What you hope you can do is get a cohesive vision.”
Areas of particular focus
“What I want to stress that you can do great for the players by doing what’s right for the game.”
“You don’t know where it’s going to head and who’s going to fight various areas. But you have so much goodwill built up with these top guys, I’d like to stress to them that not only they can help themselves, they can help the players.
But also if you look back, people who’ve had a legacy impact go all the way to my hero Stan Smith, (Rod) Laver, (Cliff) Drysdale (the first president of the ATP) – all the way up to Arthur Ashe.”
“If you can sell to the top players that they can have a lasting, positive impact on the game – obviously it has to do with money, but it also has to do with the appeal of the game – I think you can have something special.
They’ve already set the stage. It’s not a feel-good thing after the fact. They’ve done all the right stuff for such a long time, including playing at the highest level. This is their chance to have a lasting impact on the game.
Every time I talk to my students, I ask them, ‘whose name is up on the stadium at the US Open? Why? Because they did great stuff through tennis. And that also extends their impact on the game beyond the tennis.”
On getting a bigger piece of the pie, even in the post-Federer era
“There are two ways the players can really help themselves financially. No. 1 is via the Grand Slams. And No. 2 is via the (Masters) 1000s and the 500s. What most players don’t recognize is that when we initially made the “Super 11” back in the early 1990s, there were a number of tournaments that were pushed aside. Those folks who were able to secure one of the 11 (which eventually went down to the nine Masters 1000s today) were basically given the golden ring.
This was the original plan when Mark Miles started it in 1994-95, that these would become the top events. And that’s what they’ve become.”
There was life after Michael Jordan, after (Magic) Johnson and (Larry) Bird. Sports will turn out great players. And when you put great players in one place in a guaranteed fashion (as with the Masters 1000s), you’ll have growth.
Those events in particular have far increased in value, as have the Slams. The piece of the pie that the players get is tiny, compared to any other sport. And again, this is where the goodwill of these top guys is important.
I also think that the part I want to hear them out on is how do we buoy the lower end of the game – not just the 250s, but the pathway, to make it healthy.
This is another reason I think the players are underpaid. The risk you take now to try to make it on the Tour is extraordinary, the money it takes to get you on that path. So if you get through, you should be more highly compensated.”
Conficts of interest and the ITF pathway
“I’m working with players who would like to make that jump from juniors up. It especially seems like the mishandling of the ITF situation and pathway scares a lot of them. Some of them are looking at colleges instead.
One thing that’s very disturbing is IMG sponsoring the junior rankings. I don’t know. … It’s so bad for the look of the game. And I don’t feel good about the Tennis Channel being at the (USTA) national headquarters. The optics are terrible.”
On IMG owning tennis, and other conflicts
“That hasn’t even changed that much. They sold the rights for the initial Super 11. And they owned the Tour Championships, (represent) a number of the players, a number of tournaments.
There’s a vertical monopoly that still exists. I don’t know about untangling all of that, but you can make better choices.
I was guilty of it too. I did some work on Prime (Network), USA Channel. Obviously Patrick McEnroe with his mixed bag (as USTA high-performance director, Davis Cup captain and ESPN analyst) … It’s not good for the game. It just can’t be good. I’m not saying I’m going to get in there and fix it all. My goal would be to get in there and listen to the top guys, listen to everybody.”
On getting the star players involved
“It seems now that you have people who are really interested in service. And that that goes all the way down to the lower-ranked players.
When I was on the Tour we tried to do that. But we wouldn’t even get (Ivan) Lendl, (John) McEnroe, (Jimmy) Connors, (Boris) Becker in the same room. They would come in and McEnroe would say, ‘I would be commissioner of tennis, we should have fewer tournaments – and only the ones I want to play.’
We tried to get those guys on the Council, and they wouldn’t do it.
(Then-CEO) Mark Miles really tried hard to reach out to them. I empathized with the players because when I was playing, it was different. When I was coming up, the ATP hadn’t started. There was three-pronged board setup. You just wanted to play tennis. But hopefully you can get people on the same page.
But the next big decision is whom do you hire for Chris (Kermode’s) position.”
The next steps
“I put in a nomination with my CV. It’s due today (Monday). And the ATP will do a short list. Then I’ll get on the phone and start calling people; I’ve already sent a note to the Player Council.
I’ll get to Rome early, and get my face in front of as many people that will talk to me.
Then a presentation and Q&A with the council. It’d be 10-15 minutes, I’d imagine – very quick, by my recollection.
My task will be getting people to know me before I get in the room.
And that’s going to be the challenge. I remember older folks coming into the Council. And you think you’re well known. But you’re nine generations removed – especially when you hobble in needing a new knee. You come in, you have to get people to know you.
I have met Djokovic before. He’s going to be one the people that matters the most.”
Will he look to involve Federer and Nadal more comprehensively, despite them not being on the Player Council?
“That’s huge, pretty much central to the position.
What is exciting from what Justin did, was that he was able to actively – very actively – get one of the top players involved in the nitty-gritty. Kudos to him.
“There’s no way the top guys when I played would sit in a boardroom. They wanted to play in a band.
They all had bands. Wilander had a band. Noah had a band.
I really should have had a band.”
“You’ve got Federer’s agent, and Nadal’s group. So you have to be able to penetrate that. It’s been interesting to watch Djokovic suffer, because it’s a very difficult job.”
On how coaching resembles the boardroom
“In tennis you’re used to going out and training and having an impact. And in life, in a boardroom, it’s not that way. You have to do the hard work of negotiating and talking.
It’s not unlike teaching. And that’s maybe why teaching tennis is exciting to me, because you’re making changes on a granular level whether it’s a 10-year old, or an 18-year-old.
Obviously you have to know technique. But communications, helping people find meaning in what they’re doing, getting the parents involved so they understand – that’s the same work.
The reward is extraordinary because the changes don’t come when you want them to. And the work has to be endless and repetitive to get that change.”
(Photos: wire, Tennis.Life, eBay, ATP Tour website, Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy)