In January we were all shocked to hear of the diagnosis that had been inflicted on Brad Drewett – that he had Lou Gehrig’s Disease, but no one could have thought he would not be with us less than six months later. In January I wrote about my sadness at the diagnosis and recalled the years I have known Brad.
Having grown up with him in the same suburb on Sydney’s North Shore, attending rival schools and even being beaten by him (yes, yes, mercilessly on one occasion) in a match. Watching him reach the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, playing on the tour and then branching out into business and then into the most demanding and important roles in tennis administration.
His family, the love of his life, his wife Jo, who he met on a flight, and their four children, Jack, Ally and the twins Joe and Tom, were paramount. They came first. But the other love that enveloped him was his passion for this great sport we all have such an interest in.
Brad had a vision for tennis.
After so many years of divisiveness in tennis he was bringing things together but while he was a uniting force, he did not forget that he was also there to improve the players’ positions. To give them a better future which allowed the players to create a better nest egg for themselves. His aim was to leave tennis in a better place than how he found it.
He went into bat for the players with the Grand Slams and earned the players a greater share of the money pie. The women’s side of tennis must thank him unquestionably because it was his work that brought more money to the women players, not just the men.
The International Tennis Federation, national federations and the four Grand Slams all had respect for Brad Drewett. They appreciated his way of doing things and while he would have been firm and passionate about what he was fighting for, there was not the terrible animosity which had festered with the majority of his predecessors. As Margaret Thatcher once famously said about Mikhail Gorborchev, “we can do business”. That was the same with Brad and the other powers of tennis.
Brad was almost like a goodwill ambassador but at the same time not forgetting the end game.
He was the first and only player to rise up the ranks to assume the top job. He was unique because had what no one else has had and that was an ability to see the sport from all sides, as a player, a businessman and an administrator. Above all he was a friend.
Roger Federer had developed a very close friendship with Brad and said: “In his short time running the ATP, he achieved a lot and his dynamic personality and steadfast loyalty to the entire global tennis family was so evident. We loved this man and send our condolences to his wife, Jo and their 4 children. The sport of tennis has lost a great figure today, but we will ensure his legacy and contributions to our sport remain part of the ATP's fabric for years to come.”
Brad and I had our moments of disagreement, he had one opinion and I had another, but then what friendship doesn’t, it’s part of the fabric of life, you discuss it and you move on. We were supposed to be catching up for a coffee and a chat this week but sadly that can’t happen anymore. It’s my loss.
I remember his birthday party last July and how happy he was and what a night of celebration it was. Brad was too young to be taken from us. He was only 54.
The bright light of tennis has been dimmed just a bit and whoever takes over from him as the new boss of the ATP World Tour has some pretty big shoes to fill.
RIP my friend.