Tennis

Djokovic downplays rift among tennis’ top stars

Novak Djokovic played down a reported rift with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal yesterday, saying he welcomed their views on the controversial ousting of ATP chairman Chris Kermode.

Federer and Nadal ripped the top-ranked Djokovic, current president of the ATP Player Council, for failing to contact them over the decision to terminate Englishman Kermode, whose reign began in 2014 and concludes at year's end after a vote at Indian Wells earlier this month.

Serbian star Djokovic vociferously pushed for change, despite many within the game strongly advocating for Kermode to remain in charge.

Federer said yesterday he was not "chasing" Djokovic for an explanation, despite claiming at Indian Wells it was "hard to understand" why Djokovic turned down a request to discuss the situation.

Djokovic, however, maintains he would welcome the input of the Swiss and Spanish legends.

"We welcome them as well as anyone else who wants to join the political discussions," Djokovic said. "The player council is only part of the structure. We are not part of the board or deciding anything."

Nadal stressed the decision to make a change at the top of the ATP was so big that everyone should have been consulted, raising the chance of a major fall-out between the three stars.

"I have not noticed anything from their side or from mine," Djokovic said."It's not necessary for people to create any tensions or divisions between us.

"On the contrary, I have a good relationship with both of them. We always respected each other. We are rivals of course, so it's hard to be friends."

Djokovic said many players were frustrated at the current system.

"It's frustrating for me personally and other players who have been part of the structure because it has failed us many times," he said.

On the court, Djokovic's pursuit of a record seventh Miami Open ATP title ended as Roberto Bautista Agut recovered to win 1-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Bautista Agut booked a meeting with John Isner, who beat Britain's Kyle Edmund 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3). - AFP

Tennis