Djokovic backs Gimelstob
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.