'Personal gain and vendettas': Tennis stars' 'messy' war exposed at Wimbledon

The ugly war brewing behind the scenes in men’s tennis is being exposed at Wimbledon.

Just hours before the tournament kicked off on Monday, four members of the ATP Player Council stepped down from their positions.

After a seven-hour meeting that Novak Djokovic described as “turbulent”, Robin Haase, Jamie Murray, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Dani Vallverdu all resigned.

It’s believed the Player Council (headed by Djokovic) was at odds over the decision to appoint Weller Evans as Justin Gimelstob’s replacement on the ATP Board of Directors.

Sergey Stakhovsky and Robin Haase both hit out after resigning from the Player Council. Image: Getty
Sergey Stakhovsky and Robin Haase both took aim after resigning. Image: Getty

Gimelstob, a former US Open doubles champion, recently stood down from the board after being found guilty of assault.

The 10-man council were reportedly locked at 5-5 over the two candidates: Evans and former player Nicolas Lapentti.

According to Simon Briggs of The Telegraph: “The five player-council members supporting Evans’s candidature – who include Djokovic – are perceived to be supporting a confrontational approach to improving players’ pay.”

“Telegraph Sport understands that Gimelstob flew to London last week, shortly ahead of the tied vote, which raises questions about his level of ongoing involvement in the controversy.”

After quitting the Player Council on Sunday, Haase and Stakhovksy took to social media with some choice words.

Haase said he didn’t trust the current council members “to move tennis forward” , while Stakhovsky said: “Personal gain and vendettas are at the heart of such a big disconnection on the Player Council”.

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Wawrinka also critical

Djokovic has been at odds with fellow stars such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on the future direction of the sport.

Disagreements have recently centred on the decision to dispense with the services of the ATP's chief executive Chris Kermode, a popular figure in tennis.

Stan Wawrinka has previously been critical of the decision to oust Kermode, and took aim again after his first-round win at Wimbledon.

“The people who are dealing with what’s happening on the ATP Tour, recently has been really messy with people leaving the Council, all those things happening,” Wawrinka said.

“Now I think you need to wait a little bit to see what they really want, the people who are trying to make those change, because so far they only talk about making some change because something is wrong. They didn’t say what they want to do to improve or what they want to do to make it better.

“It’s been the last few months going in every direction. A lot of people are pulling out from the Council. A lot of other people are getting fired.

“It’s going to be interesting, hopefully in a positive way, but I doubt it. We’ll see what is going to happen in the next few months.”

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are believed to be at odds over a number of issues.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are said to be at odds. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Tour veteran Feliciano Lopez was also asked about the upheaval.

“Everything is falling apart. I don’t know why, but I don’t know what’s going on,” Lopez said.

“For the moment, it’s kind of a mess. This is all I can tell you. Is not only about prize money, no? Many things going on, not only prize money.”

Player Council member Kevin Anderson admitted they were in “challenging” times.

“I’m really proud of everything we’ve been able to achieve. I think tennis as a global sport has continued to reach new heights,” he said.

“Player prize money has gone up a lot. I think more guys are able to make a living playing tennis.

“By no means are we done. We want to make tennis as attractive a sport to as many people as possible. That’s what’s been focused on.

“There’s been a lot of outside topics, I guess, or things that we’ve had to deal with that we’re still dealing with. It’s been a bit of a tough process, to be honest with you.

“The more we can stay together, especially as players, the more we’ll be able to achieve at the end of the day.”