Novak Djokovic found himself mired in the muddy waters of tennis politics a day before the start of the Australian Open this morning.
If 2018 was a tumultuous year behind the scenes then there is every indication this season could top it, with most of the drama currently centred on the ATP.
As head of the ATP Player Council and world number one, Djokovic is a powerful figure within the game and one who has strong views on the way the sport should be run.
The players have three representatives on the main ATP board, one of whom, American former player and coach Justin Gimelstob, is awaiting trial on charges of assault, which he denies.
The player council has come under fire for allowing Gimelstob to remain in his post, and talking about the issue for the first time publicly, Djokovic said: “I am comfortable, as are all of the council members.
“Obviously, that’s an ongoing process and trial. Those are all allegations at the moment. If he is not proven guilty, he stays innocent, or he’s proven guilty, that’s a completely different situation for us and we have to address it. He’s been someone that has always fought for the players’ rights and represented players in a great way.”
The tournaments also have three representatives, with executive chairman and president Chris Kermode leading the organisation.
The Londoner has been in his post for five years but his current term is due to expire at the end of the season and it has been reported that the players are gearing up to vote him out, against the wishes of the tournaments.
The issue was discussed at a player council meeting on Saturday, but Djokovic refused to disclose the council’s intentions, saying: “The decision hasn’t been made on the president.
He’s still president. He’ll remain president until the end of his term. Whether there’s a renewal or not, it’s going to be decided in the next period.
It was in Melbourne last year where Djokovic addressed a player meeting calling for the collective body to push to improve their interests, and the issue of prize money rumbles on.
Despite the riches on offer at the Australian Open and the huge increases at grand slams in recent years, lower down the pyramid it remains very hard for players to make a living.
Djokovic said: “We’re satisfied with what has been happening with the slams in general, particularly the Australian Open, not just prize money but just the facilities, all the improvements we get to see and experience.
“We continue to talk to the grand slams. It’s an ongoing discussion. We are focused on distribution and we are focused more on the earlier rounds, getting more job opportunities and increasing also the number of tennis players that can live out of this sport.”
Djokovic begins his campaign on the court against qualifier Mitchell Krueger on Tuesday while his big rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are two of the headline acts on day one.
After successfully defending his title a year ago, the rest of 2018 was less successful for Federer, but he arrived in Australia on the back of a very good pre-season.
“I was probably even able to work a bit harder than I thought I was going to. I didn’t miss any sessions. I think I added on top of it. I came out of it strong,” he said. Federer takes on Denis Istomin, who upset Djokovic here two years ago, while Nadal plays Australian James Duckworth.