With Gimelstob out, 15 stand for ATP Tour board spot

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

Gimelstob steps down from ATP Board: NY Times

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)

candidatesThe 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)

Add Brad Gilbert to the list of ATP Board candidates

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.

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Hernandez-Fernandez, then 18, poses with current ATP Tour Player Council member Vasek Pospisil (17) after the Canadian defeated him in the first round of the 2008 French Open juniors. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

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.

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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)

boardThe 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)

boardJensen, 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)

boardFrom 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)

Candidate Mayotte lays out his manifesto

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.

board(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)

boardThe 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.

Daniel Vallverdu

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Dani Vallverdu

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).

A flashback to other ATP flashpoints

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.

Candidate Mayotte lays out his manifesto

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.

Here’s a piece from longtime tennis writer Charlie Bricker on that.

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.

ATP Tour board player reps Gimelstob and Egdes on the members’ balcony at Wimbledon in 2014. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

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

Tim Mayotte’s tennis resumé

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.

Part I is here

Part II is here.

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.”

Add Brad Gilbert to the list of ATP Board candidates

(Photos: wire, Tennis.Life, eBay, ATP Tour website, Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy)

Tim Mayotte’s tennis resumé

American Tim Mayotte, 58, is a co-founder of the Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy at the Thoreau Club in Concord, Mass.

As a player, the serve-volleyer was a standout at Stanford, where he won the NCAA Championship in 1981. He won the Miami Open, Queen’s, the Paris Masters and a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

Mayotte was a semifinalist at Wimbledon in 1992. But he also was a quarterfinalist there on five other occasions.

He reached the semis at the Australian Open in 1983, and the quarterfinals of the US Open in 1989.

While he was on Tour, Mayotte served as President of the Player Council. Later, he also served on the ATP Board of directors.

Candidate Mayotte lays out his manifesto

Coach, agent, board member

BoardAfter his career, Mayotte earned a Masters’ in Psychology and Theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

And he’s also been an agent. He represented Greg Rusedski and Amanda Coetzer (both former top-10 players), among others, for Donald Dell’s ProServ.

In 2009, he became a national coach for the USTA.

Mayotte has been quite critical of the inner workings of the player development program there, which was led by Patrick McEnroe at the time.

A flashback to other ATP flashpoints

One final note, just for a laugh. Mayotte’s head-to-head against fellow ATP Tour board candidate Brad Gilbert, who is of the same generation, definitely gives him the leadership at the first pole.

Add Brad Gilbert to the list of ATP Board candidates

Mayotte is almost exactly a year older than Gilbert; both were born in August.

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(Photos: wire, Tennis.Life, eBay, ATP Tour website, Tim Mayotte Tennis Academy)