LONDON (Reuters) – Departing ATP chief Chris Kermode describes his longevity in the role as “a miracle”, such has been the delicate balancing act of keeping both players and tournament owners happy.
The 55-year-old Briton is looking forward to a well-earned holiday in January once his tenure ends and predicts new ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi will not find the task an easy one.
Kermode was effectively ousted in March when he surprisingly failed to receive majority support of the three players’ representatives on the ATP board despite the fact he has overseen steep rises in prize money.
At the ATP Finals, an event Kermode has turned into a huge money-spinner, he said his greatest achievement had been to get a second three-year term.
“I arrived in a very toxic prize-money negotiation between players and promoters,” Kermode, whose brainchild the ATP Cup will debut in January, told reporters.
“I voted the biggest single increase for players in the history of the Tour. So obviously I wasn’t the tournament’s favourite person for quite a while after that.
“That’s why it’s a miracle I got a second term.”
Kermode says he has not been afraid to “ruffle feathers” during his time as executive chairman and president.
While he has proved himself a great innovator, he believes the current structure of the ATP Board should remain and believes an American-style players’ union, thought to be favoured by Novak Djokovic, is a bad idea.
“In the North American system you have players unions battling against promoters and every five years there is collective bargaining, it’s incredibly toxic, a big fight and there is always talk of walkouts,” Kermode said.
“With (our) structure players have a voice constantly at the table. For players to lose that would be a big mistake.”
Kermode says January’s ATP Cup — a new team competition taking place in three Australian cities — will be a “monster event” and says another one of his ideas, the NextGen finals, has been a hit despite initial scepticism.
“I think in five years you’ll look at the ATP Cup, and you’ll think that really was quite special,” he said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond)