Djokovic backs Gimel­stob

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Tennis - By Si­mon Briggs

Aus­tralian Open favourite No­vak Djokovic had lit­tle op­por­tu­nity to talk about his game dur­ing yes­ter­day’s pre-tour­na­ment press con­fer­ence as he was forced to de­fend some ques­tion­able de­ci­sions by the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ten­nis Pro­fes­sion­als player coun­cil in­stead.

As chair­man, Djokovic has sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence over the 10-man player coun­cil, which has de­cided to re­tain Justin Gimel­stob – the ex-player and com­men­ta­tor who is due to be tried for ag­gra­vated as­sault in Los An­ge­les on Jan 31 – as one of its three rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the ATP board.

“I am com­fort­able, as are all of the coun­cil mem­bers,” said Djokovic of Gimel­stob, who was last month re­vealed by The Tele­graph to have been the sub­ject of pre­vi­ous al­le­ga­tions of vi­o­lence. “Ob­vi­ously, that’s an on­go­ing process and trial. Those are all al­le­ga­tions.

“If he is proven guilty, that’s a com­pletely dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion for us and we have to ad­dress it. He’s been some­one that has al­ways fought for the play­ers’ rights and rep­re­sented play­ers in a great way.”

An­other is­sue that sur­faced in the in­ter­view room was the re­cent re­turn of Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky to the player coun­cil, de­spite his record of misog­y­nist and ho­mo­pho­bic com­ments. “You can al­ways fo­cus on the neg­a­tives,” Djokovic replied. “Sure, there’s al­ways a per­son or two or three that in the past has stated some­thing that is maybe not ap­pro­pri­ate.

“Sergiy has been very in­volved in the pol­i­tics in ten­nis, try­ing to rep­re­sent a lot of play­ers, and he con­trib­uted a lot to the Chal­lenger-level im­prove­ments. Cer­tainly you pointed out the neg­a­tive. I can’t say much about that. But he’s one of the 10 play­ers in the coun­cil. There’s a lot of pos­i­tives to point out, as well.”

Mean­while, a de­ci­sion on Chris Ker­mode’s fu­ture as ATP pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive is likely to be de­layed un­til March, after the player coun­cil reached a 5-5 dead­lock on Fri­day night.

The pres­i­dent is nor­mally re­con­firmed ev­ery three years, but this year’s vote has be­come highly con­tro­ver­sial, with tour­na­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives feel­ing that a small group of mil­i­tant play­ers is push­ing for change with­out hav­ing a clear idea of who should take over in­stead.

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