MELBOURNE, Australia — As the Australian Open began in earnest Monday, the sport’s leading male players were peppered with questions about the future of the ATP executive chairman and president, Chris Kermode.
Kermode’s contract is up at the end of 2019, and this week, the ATP Player Council discussed his future, with media reports suggesting that some leading figures in the sport want change.
A vote to determine Kermode’s future is scheduled to be held in Indian Wells in March.
“The decision hasn’t been made on the president,” Novak Djokovic, president of the ATP Player Council, said Sunday. “He’s still president. He’ll remain president until the end of his term. Whether there’s a renewal or not, it’s going to be decided in the next period.”
Though a player council vote is not binding, it usually serves as a guide for the three ATP tournament representatives and three ATP player representatives. For his contract to be renewed, Kermode would need a majority of each of the boards to vote in his favor.
On Monday, Rafael Nadal, who is no longer on the council, said he thought Kermode should stay.
“If [the Player Council] wants to read my opinion, I tell you I think I believe in the projects at long term, not short term, as everybody knows in my life,” he said after a straight-sets win. “And because of that, I believe that is not good to have changes all the time, because is difficult to develop a good project of work if we have changes every three, four years. Is difficult.
“I believe that Chris probably did some good work out there, and I don’t see him doing negative things or enough negative things to not continue in the position. He probably knows the world of tennis better than a new person that should come and will lose a period of time knowing all the things, how it’s going, how the things are going.”
Nadal said he wants to speak to members of the player council, feelings also echoed by Roger Federer.
“I think we’ve had a good five, six years now under Chris’ leadership,” Federer said Sunday. “Obviously it’s an important role. We need to look at it very thoroughly. I need to speak with Novak, Rafa and Andy a little bit just to get their take on it all.”
Grigor Dimitrov and Stefanos Tsitsipas also backed Kermode to stay, but Vasek Pospisil, a member of the Player Council, reportedly emailed all the players to say Kermode was not representing their interests.
Darren Cahill, a former coach of Lleyton Hewitt, Andre Agassi and Simona Halep and now an ESPN tennis analyst, said removing Kermode would be a mistake.
“Big increases in prize money, pension plan, new events, doubles initiative supporter, new progressive rules for injured players … facility upgrades,” Cahill tweeted. “I’d be stunned if Chris Kermode is removed. ATP needs stability right now.”
At the 2018 Australian Open, Djokovic called for a players-only union and demanded a greater share of tournament revenue. On Sunday, he denied claims that the top players were being greedy in asking for more money.
“Of course, we’re satisfied with what has been happening with Slams in general, particularly Australian Open, not just prize money but just facilities, all the improvements we get to see and experience,” he said. “Big credit, positive impressions go to Craig [Tiley, the Australian Open tournament director] and everyone from the organization who have done a great job.
“We continue to talk to Grand Slams. It’s an ongoing discussion. Fortunately some people, maybe some media as well, just comes across this information as it’s me, as part of the council, [thinking that] some of the top players that are fighting for more money for ourselves, which is not true at all. I have to mention that because we are focused on distribution, equal distribution, and we are focused more on the earlier rounds, last rounds of qualification, first several rounds of Grand Slams, getting more job opportunities and increasing also the number of tennis players that can live out of this sport.
“We’re trying to increase the number of players that are able to travel around the world, not just cover expenses, have the full team, have a decent living out of the sport that they play.”