Ten­nis re­quires lead­ers not am­a­teurs at the top

David Haggerty’s re-elec­tion as the head of the sport’s world gov­ern­ing body is not what is needed, writes Si­mon Briggs

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Final Whistle -

Haggerty and his pals shrugged off the out­right dis­as­ter of the Tran­si­tion Tour

Is ten­nis the sick man of world sport? That was the mes­sage com­ing out of yes­ter­day’s In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Fed­er­a­tion con­fer­ence in Lis­bon, which re­con­firmed David Haggerty in the fuzzy yel­low equiv­a­lent of the post that Sepp Blat­ter filled for so many years.

Ten­nis reck­ons such ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sion­als as Roger Fed­erer, Rafael Nadal and Ser­ena Wil­liams among its ac­tive par­tic­i­pants. And yet many of its ad­min­is­tra­tors are so ama­teur­ish you would hes­i­tate to let them run your lo­cal park courts.

One thing you hear no one say is “What a great job the ITF is do­ing!”, but that did not stop Haggerty, who has spent the past four years spark­ing all man­ner of fusses and con­tro­ver­sies, from win­ning this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion with a 60 per cent vote share.

His three ri­vals – Anil Khanna of In­dia, Dave Mi­ley of Ire­land and Ivo Kaderka of the Czech Repub­lic – thus tal­lied just 40 per cent be­tween them. “This elec­tion was all about the evil of lessers,” said one ob­server with a smirk.

As with Fifa, the ob­sti­nacy of the elec­torate pro­vokes a chal­leng­ing thought ex­per­i­ment: what would it take to dis­lodge the rul­ing fac­tion?

Haggerty and his pals shrugged off the out­right dis­as­ter of the Tran­si­tion Tour, in which hun­dreds of less-well-paid play­ers lost their rank­ings points overnight. They breezed through the ef­fec­tive sale of the Davis Cup to an un­proven con­sor­tium for a 25-year term. No, as long as the ITF in­cum­bent stops short of drop­ping a doo­dle­bug on the All Eng­land Club, he or she can par­lay home-field ad­van­tage into a job for life.

No­body rated Haggerty’s pre­de­ces­sor Francesco Ricci Bitti ei­ther. Yet he served four straight terms, from 1999 to 2015, and wound up with a cushy post within the Olympic move­ment: the holy grail of sports ad­min­is­tra­tion.

When the Lawn Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion ad­dressed this is­sue by email on Thurs­day, it seemed for a minute as if it might say some­thing de­ci­sive. “We are deeply con­cerned about the gover­nance of the sport [and] the role of the ITF,” it be­gan.

And yet, by the end of that very para­graph, you could sense the au­thor be­ing over­come by en­nui. The state­ment limped to a close, mum­bling that “now is [not] the right time for a rad­i­cal change in regime”, as if des­per­ate to make it to the bar for a stiff dou­ble. In­ter­na­tional ten­nis pol­i­tics can have that ef­fect on you.

For it is not just the ITF which is patho­log­i­cally dis­ap­point­ing. The whole scene is frac­tured, and – in the words of Wim­ble­don chair­man Philip Brook – riven by “more uni­lat­eral be­hav­iour and dis­cord among the gov­ern­ing bod­ies than I’ve seen in 20 years”. The four ma­jors are ten­nis’s great as­set: in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised show­pieces, each with its own dis­tinc­tive at­mos­phere. But they grew by work­ing to­gether. Now they have be­come mega-events, they all think they can go it alone, so that Lon­don, Paris, Mel­bourne and New York each has its own rules and scor­ing sys­tem.

Mean­while, the As­so­ci­a­tion of Ten­nis Pro­fes­sion­als – which runs the men’s tour – will have no chief ex­ec­u­tive af­ter Jan 1, and is deal­ing with a break­away move­ment of 80 play­ers who want to ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly with the slams.

This sport, ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­view Mi­ley gave this week, is a $22 bil­lion (£17.9 bil­lion) in­dus­try. Equipped with one co­or­di­nated gov­ern­ing body, ten­nis would be en­joy­ing a golden era. But this is not the way it is played. In­stead, world ten­nis feels like a gi­ant dou­bles match in which ev­ery­one is out for them­selves.

Back in: David Haggerty re­mains as ITF pres­i­dent

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.