Dirty ‘mess’ exposed at Wimbledon
ON WHAT is normally one of the brightest days on the tennis calendar, a dark cloud hung over Wimbledon.
As tennis-loving Brits soaked up the sun and sipped on Pimm's, players were forced to address an ugly side haunting the sport - on the men's side at least.
Political upheaval rocked the ATP before the year's third grand slam and a host of stars spent as much time answering questions about turmoil inside the locker room as they did talking about their own matches at the All England Club on Monday.
Four members of the 10-man ATP Player Council quit in the days leading up to Wimbledon because of disagreements over a new board member who replaced Justin Gimelstob.
Former star Gimelstob stood down after being found guilty of assault and Weller Evans was voted in by the ATP Board, sparking a raft of exits.
Robin Haase, British doubles star Jamie Murray, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Andy Murray's former coach, Dani Vallverdu, formed the quartet that quit the Player Council in the wake of the decision, and players had plenty to say about the situation in the men's game.
When Haase quit, he released a statement on social media saying he didn't trust the current regime to take tennis in the right direction.
Stakhovsky said: "Personal gain and vendettas are at the heart of such a big disconnection on the Player Council".
Stan Wawrinka has been heavily critical of those who were responsible for ousting ATP chief Chris Kermode - a movement reportedly led by Gimelstob - and the Swiss star took aim again after his straight-sets win over Ruben Bemelmans, calling the affair "messy".
"The people who are dealing with what's happening on the ATP Tour, recently has been really messy with people leaving the Council, all those things happening," Wawrinka said.
"Now I think you need to wait a little bit to see what they really want, the people who are trying to make those change, because so far they only talk about making some change because something is wrong.
"They didn't say what they want to do to improve or what they want to do to make it better.
"It's been the last few months going in every direction. A lot of people are pulling out from the Council. A lot of other people are getting fired.
"It's going to be interesting, hopefully in a positive way, but I doubt it. We'll see what is going to happen in the next few months."
Prize money has been a big talking point when it comes to changes some ATP Tour members want to see, but world No.54 Feliciano Lopez said his colleagues could not complain about their pay packets and was adamant that wasn't the only point of contention.
"Everything is falling apart. I don't know why, but I don't know what's going on," Lopez said with a smile.
"For the moment, it's kind of a mess. This is all I can tell you.
"Is not only about prize money, no? Many things going on, not only prize money.
"Many other things that have been under discussions during the week, with the Council, with the board. It's not only about prize money. Prize money-wise I think we cannot complain, to be honest."
President of the Player Council Novak Djokovic shares a close relationship with Gimelstob and reports have suggested the Serbian also played a strong role in the removal of Kermode, who enjoyed support from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
After his win over Philipp Kohlschreiber, Djokovic said he caught up with Gimelstob in London and described the most recent Player Council meeting where several members quit as "turbulent".
"I did say that I understand the players that have resigned. Very, you know, so to say, a turbulent meeting, if I may call it that way," Djokovic said.
"We are all there to try to volunteer and contribute as much as we can for positive change in our sport."
A 5-5 deadlock on the Council meant it was difficult to choose Gimelstob's replacement, before Evans was given the gig by the ATP Board, and Djokovic said something needed to change to make decision-making easier in future when there was a tie.
"I think there has to be some form of change in the structure. I mean, there has to be something else that has to be implemented. They have to figure out ways, that's not our job. We can obviously have conversations and suggest something," Djokovic said
"It's up to the management and the board reps to come up with some solutions. We're waiting for them. Hopefully can have some good solutions in the future."
South African Kevin Anderson is on the Player Council and defended its work, saying it was important not to get caught up in the "negative stuff", but admitted these are challenging times.
"I'm really proud of everything we've been able to achieve. I think tennis as a global sport has continued to reach new heights. Player prize money has gone up a lot. I think more guys are able to make a living playing tennis," Anderson said.
"By no means are we done. We want to make tennis as attractive a sport to as many people as possible. That's what's been focused on.
"There's been a lot of outside topics, I guess, or things that we've had to deal with that we're still dealing with. It's been a bit of a tough process, to be honest with you.
"The more we can stay together, especially as players, the more we'll be able to achieve at the end of the day."
However, Anderson also addressed some of his frustrations with the way the political side of the sport worked, saying meetings could be quite "intense" and improvements needed to be made.
"I've tried to be very vocal. I think that's been probably one of the more frustrating parts from my side - I don't feel like I've been able to communicate or find a way with management yet to try and speed along the process," Anderson said.
"There's a very delicate balance between also trusting our board reps and having them make the best decisions for us.
"I do feel like one of the highlights from our last meeting was moving forward there will be a slightly different not necessarily structure, but the way we go about the meetings, the way we discuss, have the dialogue. I don't know what that looks like yet.
"Sometimes the discussions can get quite intense, as well.
"I definitely feel like there's a lot of room for improvement there."