The announcement from longtime ATP Tour board player representative Justin Gimelstob that he is stepping down from his duties, effective immediately, was the big news Wednesday morning.
But the next step is equally as important, if less headline-worthy.
And that is this: who will replace him?
The social-media outcry for the ATP Player Council to remove him has been loud. And some notable players and figures in the game have finally begun to make themselves heard, in the wake of the resolution of Gimelstob’s felony battery case April 22.
But the fact remains that the 42-year-old American was considered a highly effective advocate for the players during his 10 1/2-year tenure.
And in this key moment in the Tour’s history, with so many issues on the table, the search will be on to find someone who can be similarly effective – especially in dealing with the business side of the game.
A big slate of candidates
Tennis.Life has obtained the list of candidates who have stepped forward to run for the now-vacant post, which comes with a stipend of about $100,000 U.S. Most of all, it comes with a great deal of responsibility as the ATP Tour looks to shape its future.
With Gimelstob’s withdrawal, there are … 15 names. It’s a big list.
The Player Council will have to whittle down the list to a more manageable five, before hearing presentations and making a decisional vote May 14 in Rome.
At first glance, none of them appear to match the package of competencies that Gimelstob brought to the table. But that’s the reality the Council has to deal with. And the chosen candidates will have every opportunity to make their case before the Player Council in Rome.
We outline them here, briefly, in alphabetical order.
Brandon Burke (JAM/CAN)
The 26-year-old, a former top-100 junior and Davis Cup player for Jamaica, played Ivy League tennis at Brown University and graduated with a B.A. in sociology.
In 2018, he graduated from law school at York University in North York, Ont. (the Rogers Cup facility is on the campus of that university) with a Doctor of law (J.D.) degree. While there, he was a member of the Entertainment and Sports Law Association.
Burke currently is articling at the Norton Rose Fulbright firm, which boasts of being one of the 10 largest in the world, by number of lawyers and revenue measures.
His father, Doug Burke, is a former top-200 Tour player and the president of the ACE tennis development centre in Burlington, Ont.
Weller Evans (USA)
Evans, now 64, is the longtime former ATP Tour manager and executive vice-president, player services. He retired in 2006 after 25 years. He also was an account executive at IMG in 1983-84
He served on the (then) Men’s Tennis Council from 1985-1989 as one of the three player representatives on a council that also included reps from the ITF and the tournaments.
Evans played on the Tour occasionally, from 1981 through 1989 – almost exclusively in doubles. But there is no record of his having won a match.
Brad Gilbert (USA)
Jose Hernandez-Fernandez (DOM)
The 29-year-old from the Dominican Republic is still an active Tour player. He’s currently ranked No. 280 in singles.
His career-high ranking of No. 179 came in 2015.
Hernandez-Fernandez played college tennis at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Dominican played in the Bordeaux Challenger this week. He lost in the first round to ITF-reserve entry Oriol Roca Batalla of Spain.
Mark Knowles (BAH)
The longtime doubles star, 47, retired in 2016 after a standout career where he made his name in doubles.
Knowles won 55 doubles titles and made the finals 44 additional times. His most successful partnership came with Canadian Daniel Nestor.
He won titles every season but one, between 1993 and 2012. That’s remarkable longevity.
Nestor and Knowles won the Australian Open, French Open and US Open among their many trophies Knowles reached the No. 1 ranking in doubles for the first time in 2012.
Knowles, who went to UCLA, has done some coaching (notably, he has worked with both Milos Raonic and Stan Wawrinka during the grass-court swings, and American Ryan Harrison).
He also is a sports ambassador for the Bahamas, and works in real estate.
As well, he’s been an analyst on Tennis Channel since 2013.
Steve Krulevitz (USA)
The former top-50 Tour player, now 67, is Baltimore born and raised and has dual Israeli-American citizenship.
Nicknamed “Lightning”, he self-published a memoir in 2017.
Krulevitz earned a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from UCLA in 1974. He also played on the varsity team, and at one time was the No. 7 junior player in the U.S. and named to the junior Davis Cup team.
He played on Tour for a decade, reaching a career high of No. 70 in singles, and winning four titles in doubles.
After his career, he founded the Steve Krulevitz Tennis Program and in 2015, was named USPTA Mid-Atlantic High School coach of the year.
Luke Jensen (USA)
Jensen, 52, was the French Open men’s doubles champion in 1992 with brother Murphy.
He reached a career high of No. 168 in singles, but got to No. 6 in doubles, with 10 career titles.
Notably, he could serve with both arms and seriously messed with people. The brothers brought a whole new level of fun to the game.
He was the women’s head tennis coach at Syracuse University from 2006-2014. But he resigned early in the 2014 season, officially to “pursue other opportunities”.
It emerged that there had been issues, reportedly of inappropriate conduct, with several members of the team.
Jensen continued to do good work at a tennis academy for children and young adults with Down Syndrome.
He’s the Director of racquet sports at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, NY, the longtime former home of the US Open.
Nicolás Lapentti (ECU)
From Ecuador, the 42-year-old reached No. 6 in the ATP Tour rankings in 1999, and has five career singles titles.
He is from an accomplished tennis family. His brothers Giovanni and Leonardo also played professionally.
And his uncle, Andrés Gomez, and cousins Roberto and Emilio Gomez have done the same. Gomez, notably, is the 1990 French Open champion.
Lapentti played in 38 Davis Cup ties from 1993 through 2010, posting a 41-16 record in singles.
He ran for the presidency of the Ecuadorian Tennis Federation in 2012, and served for several years. He remains on the federation’s board.
Lapentti currently is involved in a lot of different areas. He has a television production company called Play On Media. And he is president of a family-owned real estate development outside Guayaquil called Bahia Muyoyo.
Peter Lawler (USA)
Lawler, who did his undergraduate degree at Yale and graduated from Georgetown law, had a long career in the agency business.
He was one of the founders of the original Advantage International agency in 1983, and was its managing director from 1983 to 2007.
The company was rebranded as Octagon in 1997.
This eye-opening story from the Washington Post in … 1985, in which Lawler is quoted, is astonishing in the sense that when you read it, the names may have changed. But the issues in tennis haven’t changed in more than three decades.
Notably, Lawler was long married to WTA Tour president Mickey Lawler, who ran the tennis division at Octagon for many years. The couple is now divorced.
Tim Mayotte (USA)
Austin Nunn (USA)
The American has experience in communication for the WTA Tour and World Team Tennis.
He was a Tour manager on the ATP Tour in 2011-12.
Nunn also has worked on behalf of various players including Milos Raonic.
Trilingual, Nunn’s experiences range from partnership management, international PR, event management, media strategy, Content, event marketing, sponsor sales and talent management.
Nicolas Pereira (VEN)
Pereira was a standout junior player, winning the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open junior boys’ titles in 1988.
(He didn’t play the Australian Open that year).
As a pro, he didn’t quite reach those lofty heights. Pereira reached No. 74 in singles, with two titles, and also was a top-50 doubles player.
These days, he’s a host and television analyst for the Spanish arm of ESPN, and has experience in sports marketing and PR.
He speaks four languages, and has been a voting member of the Tennis Hall of Fame since 2015.
Pereira also has been an ATP Tour Alumni Committee member since 2016.
Michael Russell (USA)
The American, who turns 41 today, retired four years ago after a long career during which he was renowned as one of the hardest-working players on Tour.
After being named Rookie of the Year at the University of Miami, he turned pro in 1998.
In a career that began in 1997 and wrapped up in 2015, he reached a career high of No. 60.
While he was on Tour he also earned a degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in 2012.
He has a tennis coaching business in Texas, and has worked with Ryan Harrison.
Vallverdu, a Venezuelan who has also worked with Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych, is currently the coach of Tour player Grigor Dimitrov.
He reached a career best No. 55 in the ITF rankings as a junior. He partnered up with the likes of Fabio Fognini and Pablo Andujar in doubles back then. But his most frequent partner was Murray, with whom he has maintained a long friendship.
The two first met at the Sánchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona when they were just 15.
The 33-year-old didn’t break into the top 700 on the ATP Tour during a career that spanned 2004-10. And he quickly turned to coaching.
But not before graduating from the University of Miami in 2009, with a BA in International Marketing and Finance.
Vallverdu was voted in as a coaches’ representative on the ATP Player Council in June, 2018.
Modesto (Tito) Vasquez (ARG)
Vasquez, from Argentina, is the nation’s former Davis Cup captain.
Spanish-born, he moved to Argentina with his family at a young age, after the Spanish Civil War.
From 1967-71, he played college tennis at UCLA. Among his teammates was the legendary Jimmy Connors.
The 70-year-old held the Davis Cup post from 1986-1988, and returned in 2008 to replace Alberto Mancini, who had resigned after Argentina lost to Spain in the final.
It had been a controversial decision, as Guillermo Vilas and Martin Jaite had also been candidates. He lasted two years.
Vasquez coached Victor Pecci when Pecci made the 1979 French Open final. And he not only was the Argentina Davis Cup captain, he did the same for Paraguay and Venezuela – which has to be some kind of record.
(Information to put together these biographical sketches was culled from the ATP and ITF websites, Wikipedia, LinkedIn and various other sources).