MELBOURNE, Australia -- ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett disclosed Tuesday that he is suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease) and will continue in his current role on an interim basis as the ATP Board of Directors begins the search process for his successor in the near future.
The announcement came on the second day of the Australian Open, imbuing the matches with a sense of insignificance and dislodging the sport from its axis.
"It has been a privilege to serve as Executive Chairman and President of the ATP, an organization that I've been a part of for more than 35 years since I became a professional tennis player," said Drewett, a 54-year-old Australian. "I hold the ATP very close to my heart, and it's with sadness that I make the decision to enter this transition period due to my ill-health."
A former player, Drewett achieved a career-high singles ranking of No. 34. He made a smooth transition to management and, by age 40, was overseeing the ATP's operations in the Middle East, Asia and Pacific. After the ATP parted ways with chief executive Adam Helfant at the end of 2011, Drewett was named to the position on Jan, 1, 2012. Well-liked and even-tempered, he was viewed as a compromise candidate, a stay-the-course insider who was acceptable to the top players as well as the tournament directors.
His brief tenure was mixed. Drewett still did not extract as much prize money from the the Grand Slam tournaments -- especially the U.S. Open -- as the players would like. He was also largely silent when the tournament representatives on the ATP Board turned down a unilateral prize money increase offered by Larry Ellison, head of the Indian Wells event.
On the other hand, Drewett won sizable concessions from the Australian Open -- which now has the largest purse in the sport -- and closed significant sponsorship deals and extensions.
"Brad has become a good friend of mine over the years and this is very sad news for all of us at the ATP and the entire tennis community," said Roger Federer, President of the ATP Player Council. "He is well liked and respected by everyone and has done a tremendous job in leading the ATP over the past 12 months, overseeing some major initiatives and a record-breaking year in 2012. His dedication and service to the sport over the years has been truly admirable and he has been a central figure in helping to grow the ATP product across the globe. Our thoughts are with him and his family during this difficult time."