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By Tennis Now | Thursday, August 8, 2019

 
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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been elected to the ATP Player Council after a tumultuous political season that saw several players resign their posts.

Photo credit: Mark Peterson/Corleve 

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are stepping back into the ATP political arena.

The rivals were elected to the ATP Player Council along with veteran Austrian Jurgen Melzer after a tumultuous political season that saw several players resign from the board. The trio join the council immediately and will serve through the end of their existing terms which run through to the 2020 Wimbledon, the ATP announced.

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The ATP Player Council imploded at Wimbledon as four members—Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky, Jamie Murray and Daniel Vallverdu—tendered their resignations after the election of Weller Evans to fill the departed Justin Gimelstob's spot on the ATP Board of Directors following a contentious seven-hour meeting.

The Player Council was reportedly split down the middle on which candidate to hire to take Gimelstob’s vacated post, Evans or Nicolas Lapentti, but the board eventually settled on Evans in a temporary rather than permanent role.

Gimelstob resigned after pleading no contest to a felony battery charge, which a Los Angeles judge reduced to a misdemeanor. 




There has been both discussion and dissension among prominent players after the board declined to renew ATP president Chris Kermode's contract in March. Kermode's tenure ends at the conclusion of this year and his status prompted public sniping between the Big 3 back in March.

ATP Player Council president Novak Djokovic and Gimelstob were among those opposing extending Kermode's contract, while Nadal and Stan Wawrinka have been vocal supporters of Kermode. Nadal was upset he was not consulted on the Briton's ouster. 

"I am disappointed that nobody came and explained why. What's the real reason we don't have Chris continuing running our sport?" Nadal told the media in Indian Wells. "Probably the guys who are running the council, they didn't make the right job, because when they are there is they are there representing us, so normally they have to ask what's our opinion."

In Indian Wells, Djokovic pointed out communication is a two-way street suggesting Nadal could speak to him anytime.

Djokovic later said Federer and Nadal are iconic champions whose "opinions are extremely important to everyone" and emphasized he welcomed their input into ATP politics.  

"They have been icons on our sport for so many years and their opinions are extremely important to everyone," Djokovic said in Miami in March. "So if they want to be active and part of it in some way, officially or unofficially, I think it’s only a positive."

Among the ongoing issues is the search for a replacement for Kermode and bridging the revenue gap between players and tournaments.

Critics of the current political structure say ensuring that the future stars of the ATP gain a larger percentage of revenues and have more say in how the sport is operated is vital to the future of the ATP.

Feliciano Lopez, who occupies the unique position of being both active player and tournament director of the Mutua Madrid Open, conceded the ATP's political structure is in disarray and predicted change is coming.

"There is many things going on right now in the ATP as an organization," Lopez told the media at Wimbledon last month. "There is probably many changes coming up. I cannot tell you obviously in detail, but everything is falling apart.

"I think we still have time, so by the end of the year, we will hopefully, you know, have everything sorted out and we will have the player council again and everything's gonna be hopefully in the right direction again. For the moment, it's kind of a mess."

World No. 1 Djokovic, who has his supporters on the council, including Vasek Pospisil, asserts the structure of ATP governance is the root cause of the issue.

“Unfortunately the governing structure is structured in such a way that it does not allow us to make any significant changes at our will,” Djokovic said.

The Player Council is scheduled to meet again this month shortly before the US Open.

 

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