(Reuters) – World number one Novak Djokovic said Justin Gimelstob made a ‘wise decision’ to step down from the ATP board of directors but also suggested he might make a return in the future.
Gimelstob resigned from the board last week after being sentenced to three years probation and 60 hours community service on an assault charge.
Djokovic, who is the ATP Player Council president, said Gimelstob’s departure was the correct outcome but that his loss to the tour was “unfortunate”.
“Under the circumstances it was a wise decision from his side,” Djokovic told reporters at the Madrid Open.
“It’s unfortunate because I think he has been probably the biggest asset that players had in the last 10-plus years that he’s been on the tour.
“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.”
Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer have both welcomed Gimelstob’s resignation with the former saying in a letter to the Times newspaper that the American being initially allowed to stay on the board after the assault was “shameful”.
Federer said in Madrid that he thought Gimelstob’s exit could pave the way for ATP chief Chris Kermode to stay in his position beyond 2019.
Gimelstob was one of the main drivers behind the rejection of a contract extension for the executive chairman and president in March and was at one stage spoken of as a potential replacement for Kermode.
“I don’t know exactly the process … when the new CEO, all this stuff gets decided,” Federer said at the weekend.
“But (Kermode) maybe should be put back … in the mix …”
Djokovic, the most prominent player to back Kermode’s ousting, said he was not opposed to Kermode applying to stay on if he got enough support.
“Technically Chris has the right to be in a ballot again,” Djokovic said.
“He has the right to be a candidate officially for another mandate. I don’t know whether he wants to do that or not. I haven’t spoken to him about it. But if this happens, why not?
“In our sport we need as many quality candidates as possible. He’s someone that has been a president for quite a few years and knows the tour inside out.”
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney)