Roger Federer welcomed the appointment of former Nike executive Adam Helfant to head the Association of Tennis Professionals,calling it a chance to “make tennis even better.”
The statesmanlike world number two dealt with Helfant on multi-million dollar clothing contract negotiations,and as president of the ATP Player Council will again find himself across the table from the 44-year-old.
“His view is great,he has been in sports big time,” said Federer after winning his opening match at the Australian Open warm-up Kooyong Classic on Wednesday,defeating Carlos Moya 6-2,6-3.
“He deals with Brazil (national team) and FC Barcelona and all the basketball players. I even had something going on with him at Nike when I was negotiating my contract,so I saw what kind of a man he was. He is very honest,and I think that is a very good
Federer said finance would be among the issues on the table as the governing body of world tennis works to get tournaments to increase prize money. “I think tournaments have done really well over the years,” he said.
“At the moment it is a bit of a crunch obviously,so we are sensitive to that issue,but I think now having a new CEO,the chance is to make tennis even better.” The state of the annual calendar will also likely be among the issues the pair discuss when they meet.
There are calls for the Open to be pushed back by a few weeks,sending the first Grand Slam of the season into February,because the rise of big-money events in the Gulf are draining player fields at Australian warm-up events.
“Definitely the calendar is always something we do talk about,” said the Swiss player. “I guess (the way) to fix the Australian Open problem — having more tournaments beforehand — is to move it backwards a couple of weeks. You would have more of an Australian swing coming,and maybe also the Middle Eastern tournaments. It would maybe be better to have Doha (early January) and Abu Dhabi (late February) back-to-back.”
“There are a whole lot of issues we are trying to solve,we are trying to make it as good as we can for everybody.” Helfant took over from South African Etienne de Villiers,who decided not to renew his mandate after coming under attack from several top players,including world No. 1 Rafael Nadal,over the ATP tournament schedule.
He was a senior executive with Nike for 12 years and spent three years with the National Hockey League as an attorney.
Federer said Helfant flew out to visit him as well as Nadal and Novak Djokovic,all Council members elected last year,when he was on the shortlist for the post.
There had been calls for a European to be named to the top ATP post,but Federer said nationality was not an issue. “For me it doesn’t matter where in the world he comes from. I remember Rafa saying he would like to have a European one. I spoke to him and he also said as long as he is a good man,at the end of the day that is what matters. It’s important that the CEO we have spends significant amount of time as well in Europe because that is a driving force from the players’ side at the moment.
“But I still think it is important not to forget the rest of the world,especially America as well,because America is a huge market.”