The ATP Tour Player Council will meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. Rome time.
They’ll hear the pitches from the six finalist candidates for the position of Tour board player representative vacated two weeks ago by Justin Gimelstob.
And after that, they will vote.
But it will be a strange, rather out-of-body experience for the candidates, which include pre-vote favorite Weller Evans (a former player services vice-president with the ATP), former top-10 player Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador and two former players turned broadcasters in Mark Knowles and Nicolas Pereira.
That’s because almost none of the board will actually be in attendance in Rome.
President Novak Djokovic, who starts his Italian Open campaign Wednesday against Canadian Denis Shapovalov, will be there.
Vasek Pospisil, who is currently at Janko Tipsarevic’s academy in Belgrade, Serbia training for his return from back surgery on the grass, was scheduled to fly in for the day.
But beyond that … disconnected voices on a conference call.
Vice-president Kevin Anderson spent Mother’s Day with his mum, back home in South Africa.
Sam Querrey and the injured John Isner are at home in the U.S.
Yen-Hsun Lu is in Asia.
Players depart Rome before conference
Robin Haase was in the qualifying in Rome. But he lost in the first round to Dan Evans and likely is long gone (especially with the 300 Euros they’re charging at the official hotel).
The doubles team of Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, both on the Player Council and seeded No. 2, were upset in the first round by Jérémy Chardy and David Goffin and also reportedly have left town.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, who is playing a Challenger this week, is in Gwangju City, South Korea, which is seven hours ahead of Rome.
The Ukrainian got on court for his first-round match just before 1 p.m. Korea time (6 a.m. in Rome) and won. He doesn’t play Wednesday, but he’ll have to be up half the night to take part in the presentations and the vote.
Meanwhile, two of the candidates are hanging loose in Rome before the vote (looks like they’re in the bar, too).
— Nicolás Pereira (@nicolaspereira) May 14, 2019
Not ideal circumstances
We’re not sure why they decided this procedure had to be done in Rome. Perhaps the weekend before the start of Roland Garros of Wimbledon, with a greater complement of Player Council members on hand, would have been a better call.
But it’s a decision of significant magnitude in terms of what’s at stake for the players and the Tour in the short and medium term.
Hopefully they have a video conference system set up, so the players checking in from remote locations will at least be able to see the candidates as they present, and ask questions. Otherwise it’s barely better than emailing a set of questions.
But the big issue that has divided the Player Council – and its membership – remains.
And it’s the fate of CEO Chris Kermode.
Council opinions firm
Kermode was denied a renewal of his contract by the votes of the Player Council board reps at Indian Wells, unanimous in implementing that decision even though the Player Council was deadlocked at 5-5 in a vote two months’ prior.
Despite that, Djokovic said during his press conference in Madrid that there was no reason Kermode couldn’t put his name up for a new term.
“I actually think that technically he has the right to … be in a ballot again. He has the right to be a candidate officially for another mandate. And I don’t know whether he wants to do that or not. I haven’t spoken to him about it. But if this happens, yeah, why not.
“In our sport we need as many of quality candidates as possible. He’s someone that has been a president for quite a few years and knows the Tour inside out. And it’s going to be a really important and interesting process for us of recruitment as well. I think several companies have been engaged now in the recruiting process and research, so hopefully we can have quality candidates from inside of tennis, sports, and out of sports, so we can understand what is best for us.”
What’s the plan, Nole?
Federer said in Madrid that Kermode should be put back in the mix. But he added he didn’t know, after all the drama, if he would be interested and that he had barely spoken to him in recent months.
He did tell the Christopher Clarey of the New York Times he’d like to know what the plan is.
“Because I’m hearing rumors (Djokovic) has big plans, and I might really enjoy his plans. Who knows? But maybe I’m against him, and then it’s O.K., too, because let’s have a debate about it,” Federer said.
Kermode himself told Clarey that if they want him, they know where to find him.
“I respect the vote and the process the board went through in March. If the board chooses or decides to reassess its options at any point, that can become a matter of further discussion. They know where I am,” Kermode said.
But the Player Council, from what we understand, remains split on this issue. Firmly five remain on the “not Kermode” team. Probably three wanted Kermode to remain. The other two are wild cards.
This divergence in opinion will most definitely affect the decision on the new board rep.
And it has little to do with who might have the same overall philosophy or mindset as Gimelstob. That’s a separate issue, although both Djokovic and Pospisil have been public with the fact that they greatly respect the job he did for the council for many years.
What the successful candidate is likely to need to get enough votes, however, is to stand with the “not Kermode” faction.
Lapentti a question mark?
From what we understand, Lapentti – otherwise a quality candidate – thinks Kermode should return.
He might not be aware that there’s every chance that might disqualify him, in the current climate. Or Lapentti just believes that honesty is the best policy.
As for Evans, 64, he seems to be held in very high regard by those who remember him from long career with the ATP Tour.
And he has two countrymen in Isner and Querrey on the Player Council, which can’t hurt.
But Evans has been out of the loop a long time. He left in 2006 – he was just 51 – right after hitting the 25-year mark. The landscape has changed quite a bit since then.
But in the last couple of years he has dipped a toe back into the water.
Evans the most experienced
The Floridian Evans helped with a badly-needed cleanup of the practice court reservation process at the US Open over the last two years.
And this year, he was the tournament director at the new ATP Tour Challenger in Phoenix, which took place during the second week of Indian Wells in March.
With only Djokovic and Pospisil face to face with him at the presentation, Evans no doubt will be asked where he stands on this issue.
From what we understand, the first round of voting is open. And if a 6-4 majority is not obtained, a second round will feature only the two candidates who received the most votes on the first ballot.
And what if, in the end, that vote is deadlocked 5-5 (because we know they’re really good at this 5-5 thing)?
They might have to table the discussion again until Wimbledon – just as they did in Australia in January when they couldn’t come to a majority decision over the fate of Kermode.