Violence claims land tennis identity in different court
AMERICAN tennis identity Justin Gimelstob returns to court this week over claims of alleged violence and threats to kill, as one of the sport’s most powerful organisations grapples with the issue.
Gimelstob sits on the ATP Tour board and has the support of the player council, led by Novak Djokovic. But his presence in a position of huge influence is a growing concern for several current and former players, after his arrest for allegedly attacking former friend Randall Kaplan, in Los Angeles, on October 31.
Gimelstob is alleged to have repeatedly struck Kaplan from behind, delivering up to 50 blows, while dressed as a top gun pilot.
The attack prompted Lleyton Hewitt to challenge the ATP Tour to “lead by example” ahead of next month’s Australian Open. The player council will meet via conference call after Wednesday’s scheduled court appearance to discuss the issue.
Gimelstob stepped down from his role as analyst with the Tennis Channel but has continued on the ATP board, effectively continuing to represent Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and others.
He retains the support of most of the council, which removed Roger Rasheed from the board after the South Australian supported a pay deal disapproved of by Djokovic and others.
Djokovic is believed to have supported Gimelstob’s push for a much larger pay increase – a manoeuvre viewed as shallow and predatory.
Released on bail following the alleged attack, Gimelstob has also been placed on a restraining order. News of the alleged attack was followed by claims that Gimelstob has a “pattern of violence”, reportedly involving his estranged wife.
A mediocre player, Gimelstob ruffled feathers at Wimbledon in July with what many considered excessive courtside behaviour during John Isner’s semi-final clash with Kevin Anderson.
Fist-pumping and yelling, he repeatedly roared support for Isner in a display which angered some former champions and current players.
Isner and Anderson both sit on the player council.
As it currently stands, with his ally David Edges returning to the board to replace Rasheed, Gimelstob seems safe on the board.
But the player council meeting after Wednesday’s court appearance could be crucial to his future role.