There have been some remarkable results at Indian Wells – not least Bianca Andreescu’s continuing meteoric rise – but upsets in the boardroom are less edifying
Tennis continues to rock in the Californian desert. At the Indian Wells Open (which would like to be the sport’s fifth major), the on-court excitement of upsets in both draws had just about wiped out the lingering vapour trail from last week’s summary dismissal of the ATP chief, Chris Kermode, when a second minor tremor struck.
The three players’ representatives – David Egdes, Justin Gimelstob and Alex Inglot – who have spread bewilderment in tennis by effecting a palace coup few previously knew they wanted, are complaining now that their noble cause has been misrepresented.
Apparently, they were carrying out the will of the people – well, the 10 people on the players’ council, an inner cabinet claiming to speak on behalf of their supposedly downtrodden members. And who want their sport back.
Egdes, who helped Kermode’s downfall, says the media (of which he is part, as a boss at the Tennis Channel – who also employ Gimelstob) have misrepresented their cause. So, in the interest of balance, here is some of what Egdes claimed in an overnight email, prefacing it with the haughty: “There will be no further comments on this matter.”
Egdes is surprised at “the amount of coverage dedicated to this internal governance decision”, adding: “It has been disappointing to see the divisions and suspicions that have been stoked in that coverage.”
Apologies. What we should have reported was: all is well, and the sacking of a widely admired and innovative administrator who has expanded the sport to the general satisfaction of players and fans over the past six years makes perfect sense at a time when tennis elsewhere is going through the sort of turmoil you would be hard pressed to find outside Westminster.
Egdes explains: “All members of the player council, including the 10 current players, as well as the three player board representatives, have spent months discussing and debating the merits and concerns with renewing Chris’s contract.” He goes on to say we should not minimise their “commitment and sacrifice” after consultation across the game. Well done for … doing your job.
“It is worth adding at this point that we have heard in recent days that some of our greatest icons are interested in re-entering the political conversations and helping us and the council guide the next phase of this sport’s growth. This is fantastic news and all of us welcome them and their unique perspectives.”
What he doesn’t say is why the players’ council president, Novak Djokovic, or anyone else, did not have time to talk to these icons – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, in particular – before such a crucial vote. Federer pulled the carpet from under Djokovic on Tuesday by revealing, “I tried to meet Novak on the deadline. Unfortunately, he had no time. That’s hard to understand for me. But it is OK. He certainly had a lot to do with the whole story.”
Shortly afterwards, the world No 1 fell in two sets in the third round to the inconsistent but in-form Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The tournament was further brought to life overnight when Naomi Osaka lost to Belinda Bencic (her 11th straight win, five of them over top 10 players). Then it was the turn of Bianca “Bibi” Andreescu, whose victory over Wang Qiang to reach her first Tier One quarter-final lifted her from 152 at the start of the season into the top 50 in just five tournaments. On Wednesday night the Canadian teenager became just the third wildcard in the tournament’s history to reach the semi-finals by allowing the two-times slam champion Garbiñe Muguruza just a single game in 52 minutes of exhilarating tennis. It brought her 2019 record in all matches to 26-3 and sent a shiver of delight through the game.
But upsets in the boardroom are less edifying. In a new twist on the concept of democracy, Egdes says “… the player council, in consultation with the player board representatives [himself, Gimelstob and Inglot, the brother of Great Britain Davis Cup doubles player, Dominic] decided [himself, Gimelstob and Inglot] were best placed to make the decision on behalf of the player membership. To be clear, this was not a decision made or driven by one or two individuals’ personal beliefs or agendas.”