The ousting of the ATP chairman, Chris Kermode, will leave a vacuum at the top of tennis at a time when strong leadership is required
This is the story of a pointless coup. Engineered by Novak Djokovic and facilitated by a small group in the ATP players council, it has delivered up the head of the association, Chris Kermode, one of the most innovative administrators in sport, leaving tennis in a perilous limbo at the very time it needs strong leadership.
There has been animus between the world No 1 and the executive chairman for years, which soured their working relationship to the point of collapse in Indian Wells, California, on Thursday, when three representatives each of the players and the tournament owners who make up the Association of Tennis Professionals board voted on his contract. He needed four votes. He lost. So did tennis.
The long-running friction between Kermode and Djokovic contributed significantly to his downfall, leaving the chairman in dead mans shoes until the second of his two three-year contracts expires at the end of the year.
Djokovic who has earned $128,804,799 in a stellar career but whose own attempt at running a tournament in Serbia collapsed spectacularly in 2013 has long held the view that Kermode sided with tournament organisers when the ATP sat down to carve the games considerable spoils.
Kermode has told Djokovic privately: If you think you can do a better job, have a go. There is no indication he would be so inclined. Indeed, no names at all have surfaced, creating a vacuum into which all sorts of confusion can gather.
Djokovic reckons not enough trickled down to players outside the elite level. But underdogs and dreamers with low rankings who turn up to Wimbledon this summer and are reminded they will earn 39,000 just for making the first round might not agree with their champions logic. It represents a 66% rise for first-round losers in the six years Kermode has been in his job.
Wimbledon has increased prize money every one of those years, as have most of the slam and Masters tournaments. Thursdays vote came on the first day of the Indian Wells Open, where prize money since Kermodes arrival as ATP boss in 2014 has risen from $5.2m to just over $9m. Britains No 2, Cameron Norrie, who lost in the first round, left with $15,610. The winner which is likely to be Djokovic will receive $1.3m.
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