When Novak Djokovic gave his pre-tournament press conference in Indian Wells yesterday there was no doubting the topic uppermost in journalists’ minds. The ATP Council’s decision not to renew ATP President and CEO Chris Kermode’s contract at the end of 2019 brought a volley of questions.
“It’s time for us to look into new leadership,” Djokovic commented, refusing to reveal whether he personally had voted for or against the non-renewal of Kermode’s contract. When asked what attributes the incoming President would need, Novak simply stated that “the (ATP) Council is a collected group,” adding that the organisation’s governance structure was “a bit flawed,” and that “in most cases there’s a conflict of interest.”
Djokovic was also firm but diplomatic when asked whether Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had been consulted on key issues such as Kermode’s departure, stating that communication is a two-way thing, and suggesting that all ATP Tour players are free to give him their views at any time.
It was hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for Novak’s position, for he is leading the ATP Council at a pivotal time in tennis history, when what he really needs to do is put all his energy into his own playing career. The introduction of the ATP Cup, and the changes to the Davis Cup, along with Kermode’s departure, all heap pressure onto the Council President’s shoulders. “It’s very challenging at times,” Novak said, and, referring to the ATP Council’s structure, which currently has three player representatives and three tournament representatives, with the President holding a casting vote: “as a group we have to address that.”
On court yesterday there were disappointing defeats for Cameron Norrie who was ruthlessly despatched 6-3, 6-2 on his Stadium 1 debut by France’s Felix Auger Alisassime, and Heather Watson who, in partnership with Lara Arrruabarrena lost to Garbine Muguruza and Carala Suarez Navarro after leading 8-6 in the deciding match tie-break.