(May 6, 2019) World No. 1 and ATP Players council president Novak Djokovic spoke to the media ahead of his first match at the Madrid Open on Monday. The 14-time major champ answered reporters questions in his pre-tournament news conference, mostly about the recent resignation of ATP Board member Justin Gimelstob who plead no contest to misdemeanor assault.
Asked if he supported Gimelstob’s decision, Djokovic said:
“Yes. Under the circumstances it was a wise decision from his side and it’s been a very hot topic in the last period. And it’s unfortunate because I think he has been probably the biggest asset that players had in the last ten-plus years that he’s been on the tour representing players. But at the same time, these are kind of unfortunate circumstances and he needs to go back and deal with that, deal with that case and try to find the right balance and the right state of mind before he eventually tries to come back.
“I think just at this point it was better for him to step down because the whole case was just posing so much pressure and obstacles for the tour in general, but specifically for players. And, yeah, so I think it was a good decision.”
Djokokic was also questioned about potentially letting ATP head Chris Kermode be on the ballot again. Kermode was voted out in March and his term tuns out at the end of the year.
“I actually think that technically he has the right to — and I’m talking about Chris — he has the right to be in a ballot again. He has the right to be a candidate officially for another mandate. And I don’t know whether he wants to do that or not. I haven’t spoken to him about it. But if this happens, yeah, why not.
“In our sport we need as many of quality candidates as possible. He’s someone that has been a president for quite a few years and knows the tour inside out. And it’s going to be a really important and interesting process for us of recruitment as well. I think several companies have been engaged now in the recruiting process and research, so hopefully we can have quality candidates from inside of tennis, sports, and out of sports, so we can understand what is best for us.”
A reporter posed this question to the world No. 1: “Some of the top guys have been saying they wish they had a little more information about where you want to go with the sport. I know you have been trying to keep your counsel on this. Do you have any thoughts about what you want to do, that you could tell us publicly, or maybe tell them through us publicly?”
“No, I don’t want to go through you guys to speak to them and it’s not my way. I don’t support that. I don’t think it’s right. I respect everyone’s decision to do that, but I just feel like doing it behind closed doors before doing something collectively in public just sends the better message and allows everyone to understand the situation better.
“Look, I’ve been part of the council now for quite a few years. There are a lot of flaws in this system and communication-wise for sure we can improve. When I say ‘we’ I mean the whole system. I don’t think at times it is as productive and it is as efficient as it should be.
“But at the same time, it goes both ways, so it’s important for the players to reach out as well if they want to be engaged in any form of information gathering.
“I’m not pointing fingers at anybody. I feel like we need to be on this boat together, as we are. All the players and tournaments of course because we are all part of the same system. But I know it because I’ve been like that myself in the beginning of my career when I didn’t really understand how things worked. And I would not have enough information and go out and speak my mind out and then create more trouble than we all actually have. So I feel like some players don’t want to be involved in the process because it takes a lot of time and energy, you know. And as a player, part of the council, you don’t get financially compensated, or you don’t have anything like that. It is just your pure will to contribute positively to the sport.
“So, in contrary to everyone else, that is paid for their job. It is their job. It’s their primary profession, occupation to be part of the system. And then, of course, they’re employed but we are not. So, we have the responsibility to be there and to be responsive.
“But at the same time, I understand that it takes a lot of effort, a lot of time to understand everything to going through the details and for a lot of players, including myself, at times it’s too much.
“But then I don’t think it’s the right approach to just go out in public and talk about it when you don’t have enough information and of course it goes both ways. As I said, communication from the council and board reps and the whole structure, political structure if you want to call it, side can be improved.
“But also vice versa. There are a lot of times where players don’t give you much space to approach them because during the tournament everyone is in their zone and they don’t want to be disturbed.
“So, everyone respects that and I, out of all these guys, I know that the most and I understand that. But at the same time, as I said, it goes both ways.”
Djokovic opens his quest for a Madrid Open title against American Taylor Fritz on Tuesday.