Chris Kermode the boss of the ATP Tour has played his “last match” in his current role. The ATP Finals was his, let’s say, official farewell and it was a matter of being on a high with this year’s tournament. After six years in the job Mr. Kermode’s role will be taken by someone else and in January, he will be spending the entire month away from tennis courts.
For him the shame is that he will miss the new and highly publicised ATP Cup which was something he pushed to have created. It’s not that Mr. Kermode wanted to go, but he was pushed, and his contract was not renewed. Tennis politics can be as cutting as the regular political arena.
While no one is close to be perfect, there was nothing that Mr. Kermode had done that was so dramatically wrong that it warranted him being pushed. Maybe those shoving wanted to go in a different direction bearing in mind that the ATP was probably the only one of the governing bodies that was viewed positively.
Go in a different direction, eh? That reminded me of the time when Marcelo Rios became No.1 and wanted to part with his then coach Larry Stefanki. He told Mr. Stefanki he wanted to go in a different. The response to the Chilean was: “You’re No.1. The only different direction is to go down.”
Mr. Kermode lasted two terms in the role which he flippantly suggested might be his greatest achievement. His casting vote gave players the biggest single increase in history in prize money which didn’t go down well with tournaments. He picked up from the late Brad Drewett and developed the ATP Finals in London, he created the NextGen Finals and the innovations it hosts, and of course as mentioned the ATP Cup and internally he oversaw a prize money formula for the 500’s events.
“The sport has got to look ahead for the next ten years; the game has to adapt,” he said. “People fundamentally don’t like change, but change will only happen when the sport faces, not a crisis, but maybe a reset. At the moment all the numbers are going up. We’re at record numbers in the tour’s history, so it’s difficult to get people to make changes (but) at least have a strategy for why it’s better or not.”
This week is the new look Davis Cup Finals in Madrid and in six weeks the ATP Cup in Australia. The events are fundamentally the same, but the Davis Cup has undergone a radical change, and as he said it has ruffled feathers. Whether both events can survive, remains to be seen. He feels the bruhaha will calm down and the events can coexist.
Aspects of prize money is an area he is disappointed he was not able to complete. He said the formulas and processes are very involved to fully explain but one part was to be very encouraging to events that are enthusiastic to develop.
“Come up with a formula, a system that can allow ambitious events to grow,” he said. “Our structure at the moment is a little bit restrictive in the categories (250’s, 500’s, 1000’s); to try and get a situation where we want to encourage people who want to come into the game, and for the ambitions events to grow.”
At the end of December Chris Kermode’s tenure will be over completely. It seems like the only plans are that one-month holiday in January, his first for more than four days in the last six years. Work wise, who knows. The CEO job at Wimbledon is available.
The role Mr. Kermode occupied was split and that was probably a good move. Italian Andrea Gaudenzi the former player has been named Chairman, but who the new CEO will be, we wait to find out.