MADRID – Player Council president Novak Djokovic on Monday paid tribute to Justin Gimelstob’s work as an ATP board member but said the American had made a “wise” decision to quit.
The 42-year-old Gimelstob stepped down from his post amid controversy after pleading no contest in a Los Angeles courtroom to felony assault charges reduced by a judge to a misdemeanour.
After a week of pressure for him to go, the American quit, flying to Spain to personally inform Djokovic, who was training prior to the start of this week’s tournament in Madrid.
“Under the circumstances, it was a wise decision from his side, it’s been a very hot topic in the last period,” top seed Djokovic said.
The Serb, celebrating 250 weeks on the number one ranking as he begins play at the Madrid Open, said Gimelstob was “probably the biggest asset that players had in the last 10-plus years that he’s been on the tour representing players.
“But at the same time, he needs to go back and deal with that (personal issues) deal with that case, and try to find the right balance and the right state of mind before he eventually tries to come back.”
Djokovic added: “At this point, it was better for him to step down. The whole case was just posing so much pressure and obstacles for the Tour in general, but specifically for players.”
Djokovic joined Roger Federer in supporting Gimelstob’s quick exit: “I think it was a good decision.”
Gimelstob, who also formerly worked as a television commentator as well as coaching John Isner, was accused of attacking a former friend on a street last October, raining down more than 50 punches to his head.
The incident took place in front of the victim’s pregnant wife, who later miscarried.
Long-time board member Gimelstob was sentenced to probation, community service and a year of anger management classes.
Djokovic – like Roger Federer on Sunday – left the door open for current ATP chief executive Chris Kermode, whose December, 2019, contract extension was voted down this spring by a board still containing Gimelstob and his allies.
The possibility that the decision can now be reversed is not out of the realm of possibility for Djokovic.
“He (Kermode) has the right to be in a ballot again, to be a candidate officially for another mandate.
“I don’t know whether he wants to do that or not, but if this happens, why not? He knows the Tour inside out.”
Djokovic confirmed for the first time that the ATP had engaged corporate recruiters to search for a Kermode replacement
“Hopefully we can have quality candidates from inside of tennis, sports, and out of sports, so we can understand what is best for us.”
Elections to fill the vacant Gimelstob spot on the board will be held next week in Rome.AFP