The Big Three, Plus the Full List of New Players' Council Candidates

As I reported in USA Today on Monday, the Trivalry at the top of men’s tennis -- Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – are running for the Players’ Council -- the subplot here being that they, and many other top players, have lost confidence in the ATP leadership, their board representatives, and ATP chief Etienne de Villiers. 

The 10-player council is made of four men from the top 50, two from 50-100, two doubles players ranked 1-100, two at large, one coach and one “alumni.” The nomination period is over and here are the candidates, which has been confirmed by the ATP:

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Julien Benneteau, Michael Berrer, Peter Luczak, Mischa Zverev, Yves Allegro, Frantisek Cermak, Rogier Wassen, Mahesh Bhupathi, Marcelo Melo, Nenad Zimonjic, Eric Butorac, Sonchat Ratiwana, Martin Garcia, Ivan Ljubicic, David Martin, Davide Sanguinetti, Danai Udomchoke, Yeu-Tzuoo Wang, Jaime Fillol, and Jeff Tarango.

Some players accuse de Villiers of doublespeak – telling them one thing and turning around and doing another. Some think the board reps are in his back pocket, which is partly why Perry Rogers was voted out of his position earlier this month. Some suggest he has been less than truthful. Most agree Communication had been a big problem. The bottom line is that, not unlike previous periods in tennis, the names that sell tickets are trying to assert control, but this time in a more cohesive way.

None of the top three has been particularly articulate about what they would like see changed or what their agenda is. Djokovic mostly danced around the specifics at a press conference after his second round win earlier this week. Here’s my exchange with him:

Q.  What's your reason for running for the player’s council?

“Well, now, this is something that it's a very long story. We don't have time now to talk about that and decisions.  I want to be focused on the tournament. But, yes, the truth is that I am interested of getting into the players council in the future.  The elections are soon or whatever.  But I'm not thinking about that too much, you know, before the tournament ends. 

Q.  Are there things you'd like to change?

NOVAK DJOKOVIC:  Yeah, sure.  I mean, there are a lot of things you want to change and a lot of things on my mind, but if I start talking now we'll finish tomorrow.  So there's a lot of things. But the most important thing is that finally I'm feeling that all the players are getting together, getting united, and really having the interest of changing some things for, you know, for our better tomorrow. 

Nadal was asked today about it by the Spanish press after beating Jarkko Nieminen in the third round. “If you are on the council, you have more clout and you are more informed of what happens,” said the world No. 2.

A few days ago, I also spoke to current Player’s Council president Ivan Ljubicic, who didn’t plan to run by was persuaded to do so by his peers (he is running for an at-large position because of regional limitations in the 1-50 category). He told me that it was “fantastic” for the sport that the top three players, for perhaps the first time in history, would likely be on the council.

“A lot of pressure is on top guys and they are the ones that are selling tickets at the end of the day,” said Ljubicic. “They feel like they were not asked before decisions were made. This is how they expressed their opinions. If these guys are really keen on changing something, they should be able to. Until now, they were best ranked players and that’s it. Now they will have some kind of power. I think that’s positive.”

The rare unity aside, no candidate for Rogers’ vacant position has emerged. Justin Gimelstob, who ran for the ATP board last year and is now commentating for the Tennis Channel, didn’t seem too keen to run again and said no one had approached him to do so. Current player board rep Iggy Jovanovic told me he isn’t sure if he is going to run again. He must decide by June 6.

Will the players get their act together and truly affect change to the tour in the way they want? It’s a plotline worth following.


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