By Simon Ward
Chris Kermode, a senior UK tennis official, was yesterday confirmed as the new executive chairman and president of the ATP, the organiser of the top men’s tour, on a three-year contract.
The 48-year-old Kermode, who is presently tournament director of the Aegon Championships held at Queen’s Club in London and the managing director of the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals played at the O2 in London, will take up his new role at the start of January 2014.
Kermode, whose appointment was expected, has 30 years of experience in tennis, initially as a player and coach, and has also run his own promotions and events company. The ATP said that he was the "unanimous choice" of its board of directors.
Kermode will succeed Brad Drewett, who died in May of this year aged 54. The Australian former tennis player, who had been suffering from motor neurone disease, was the subject of a tribute at the climax of this month’s ATP World Tour Championships, and the trophy was renamed in his honour.
Other leaders of the ATP since 1990 include USA’s Mark Miles, South Africa’s Etienne de Villiers and USA’s Adam Helfant.
The board had been searching for a replacement since Drewett revealed his condition in January and was reported to have vetted five candidates last month, with Kermode subsequently chosen ahead of Mark Young, the head of the ATP’s America’s division and its chief legal officer.
Kermode has received credit for the marketing of events in the UK, notably the ATP World Tour Finals, which have attracted 1.28 million spectators and praise from the players since the event was first held in Londonin 2009.
The Aegon Championships, the grass court tournament which acts as a warm-up to Wimbledon, the UK’s grand slam event, are also popular and will be upgraded to a second-tier ATP World Tour 500 event in 2015.
Kermode had support to take over from the departing Roger Draper as new chief executive of the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association but was surprisingly not interviewed for a post filled by Canada's Michael Downey in September.
However, he said he was excited by his next challenge, which will include seeking to maintain the momentum in men’s tennis generated by the emergence this century of top stars Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.
Kermode said: “It is a huge honour to have been given the opportunity to lead the ATP during what is unquestionably one of the most exciting periods in the history of men’s professional tennis.
“I look forward to getting started in my new role, and to working very hard together with ATP staff, players, tournaments and partners as we look to harness the full potential of our great sport in years to come.”
Federer, the president of the ATP Player Council, said: “On behalf of the players, I am delighted to welcome Chris as our new ATP executive chairman and president. Chris has a lot of experience having worked in a number of different capacities in tennis over the years and he has all the attributes required to lead the ATP World Tour forward during this period of unprecedented popularity and success.”