Djokovic quiet on Kermode position, but wants structural tour changes

Djokovic quiet on Kermode position, but wants structural tour changes

The ATP has announced that its board did not vote in favor of an extension for Chris Kermode, who has been in his position since 2014.

INDIAN WELLS, Calif.—Novak Djokovic refused to reveal whether he backs the ouster of ATP CEO Chris Kermode, but the president of the ATP Player Council did say he wants significant changes in the structure of the tour leadership.

The ATP has announced that its board did not vote in favor of an extension for Kermode, who has been in his position since 2014.  

"I would like to thank Chris Kermode for his contribution," said Djokovic, speaking at a press conference at Indian Wells. "He did contribute to the sport's growth, no doubt. It was decided in our governing structure that it's time for us to look into new leadership on the tour."

The ATP board consists of seven members: three player representatives elected by the player council, three tournament representatives, and the CEO. It is rumored that the top-ranked Djokovic was among the players on the council who was against a renewal for the CEO, but the Serb refused to say whether he had been for or against the move.

"I don't want to express myself as for or against, I'm part of the council, I'm president of the council and I have responsibility, and confidentiality, that I have to be responsible to," he said.

When pressed, Djokovic added, "By sharing that information I expose myself, and I become liable to breach of confidentiality within that structure. So I'm not willing to risk that, because I respect the governing structure."

While Djokovic said the player council had "extensively" talked to ATP players, Rafael Nadal complained at the Australian Open that he had not been consulted. At Indian Wells, Nadal said council member Kevin Anderson had contacted him but the two had not spoken because Anderson had been injured. Roger Federer had indicated at the Australian Open and Dubai that he intends to speak to Djokovic about ATP issues, but told press a day before the board vote he had not yet had that conversation.

"Okay. It goes both ways, right," said Djokovic. "If they wanted to talk about something, they could also approach me to talk about something. I talked with Rafa in September, also in November. I don't see any reason why he would not approach me or any other member of the player council, which is elected and selected by Federer, Nadal and everyone else to represent the players's best interests."

At Indian Wells, Nadal also gave his opinion before the CEO vote. "Chris did a good job," he said. "It will be good if he stays for a while more.

"I believe in long-term projects. I am not a fan of changing things very often."

Told that Nadal had favored keeping the CEO, Djokovic said he does "respect his opinion" and that of other players.

According to Djokovic, there has been no decision about who will fill the position. "It's going to take time, and we have plenty of quality candidates to choose from," said Djokovic.

But the 31-year-old did indicate that he wants changes to the tournament-player governing balance on the ATP Tour. He also suggested the sport should shift from the traditional way it is organized.

"The structure is such that it's I personally feel a bit flawed," he said. "You kind have to put always the role of the president as a tiebreaker in many voting circumstances. You have three votes of the player board representatives, three votes of the tournaments and most of the cases, there's a conflict of interest. It's a difficult position to be in as a president because you have to kind of at times choose between the two. So I feel that's something we as a group have to address.

"I feel like it's time for us to make some changes to protect the president, release him from pressure and also have some independent input on things. I feel like it's important for a very traditional sport that we are, that has a lot of potential in the world for sport, and business and marketing, and we can learn a lot from other sports.

"But as said, it's quite complex, because we have a lot of different governing bodies and entities, the Grand Slams... the federations, ATP,  ITF, WTA, it's very complex."

Among the apparent goals of the changes is to increase the share of player prize money, but Djokovic insisted he was not working for his own interests. 

"Being part of the ATP politics, is for me, very challenging," he said. "It's very time-consuming. But at the same time, I'm volunteering to be there and my only 'personal interest,' or 'agenda,' is the growth of the sport."

The ATP Tour said in an official statement that while Kermode has been CEO, there has been "record prize money and commercial growth for the organisation.