Challenges await new ATP leader
Leading the global sport of tennis? With fairly sound financials? A dazzling on-court product? A raft of honorable top players? This should be one of the real plum positions in sports. That it took half a year to fill? That speaks -- unflatteringly -- to a lot of issues, not least the inherently flawed structure. On the other hand, the ATP filled the position. With a quality leader. Before the year ended. And the vote among board members was unanimous. So onward we go ...
Then former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek emerged as a candidate. In the fall, the board spoke with Ian Ritchie, the top Wimbledon executive, who would have been an excellent choice, a real "compromise candidate" with strong relationships with the Grand Slam chieftains. His candidacy was squashed (cue: finger-pointing) and Ritchie ended up taking a position with the Rugby Football Union. When Krajieck pulled out earlier this month, we were down to Drewett and Young again.
Apart from generating more sponsorships and more favorable television and media deals, Drewett will have to figure out how to approach the four Grand Slam events. The Slams are terrifically profitable and allocate a scandalously low percentage of their revenue to the players as prize money. On the other hand, the players don't have much leverage here. The majors are the tentpole events -- the four tournaments on which reputations are built, and they still pay the most relative to other events -- and until the players are prepared to take drastic action, it's hard to see why or how the majors will feel pressure to act.
Say this about Drewett: He goes into this job with his eyes wide open, fully aware of the landscape and the land mines. This almost takes on the dimensions of a classical quest. Let's see how he fares fighting tennis' equivalent of the Harpies and the Amazons, resisting the Sirens, crossing the Scylla of the ITF and the Charybdis of the USTA. Godspeed, Brad Drewett.