March 10, 2016 / 10:36 AM / 2 years ago

ATP chief Kermode re-appointed, says integrity paramount

(Reuters) - Protecting the integrity of tennis is paramount if the sport is to continue reaping the benefits of a golden era, ATP Executive Chairman Chris Kermode said on Thursday.

International Tennis Federation (ITF) President David Haggerty (L-R), Tennis Integrity Board Chairman Philip Brook and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Chairman Chris Kermode hold a news conference at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

Tennis has enjoyed boom times in the past decade with men’s tennis in particular cashing on rivalries between the likes of all-time greats Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

With commercial revenues and prize money soaring, the ATP World Tour attracting a record 1 billion viewers in 2015 and the London Tour Finals an unqualified success, the sport looks to be in rude health.

Yet, so far this year allegations of match-fixing and now doping have overshadowed events on the court.

Kermode, who was appointed for a second term on Thursday having been in the post since 2014, said keeping the sport above board and transparent was one of the key challenges he faced.

“It’s of huge importance and paramount to the whole of the sport,” Kermode told Reuters of the battle to root out the threat of match-fixing.

”The health of tennis is about two things, it’s about believing what you are watching and about caring who wins.

“We have to make sure that integrity is safeguarded and we are all taking it very, very seriously.”

Kermode has been a key mover in instigating an independent review into tennis’s anti-corruption unit -- a report he says will take as long as required and will cost what is costs.

“It will be published and more importantly we will act on every single recommendation, which is a demonstration of how seriously we are taking it,” he said.

“No one wants to see another sport regulating itself. We need someone outside looking in.”

After the WTA Tour’s most marketable player Maria Sharapova’s failed drugs test, Kermode said he had faith in tennis’ anti-doping system, saying the top men’s players were being tested more than ever.

“But this is the time to take a good look and see if we are doing the best job we can. We can all get better,” he said.

Tennis has been dogged by instances of doping violations, with Marin Cilic, Viktor Troicki and Barbora Strycova all receiving bans in the past years.

Kermode said another of his challenges was making sure the next generation of players continued to draw in fans.

”I‘m really excited about the young players coming through, I’ve lived through quite a few great generations, such as Borg and McEnroe, Becker, Agassi when people say things will never be the same again.

”But I can relax a little because we have Kyrgios, Zverev, Coric, Chung, all these guys, and they have a wide geographical spread. And there’s Taylor Fritz making huge strides in the States. There is a good group of Americans

“What’s exciting is that when these young players are at the cusp, it’s unpredictable which ones will make the big jump first. It always takes you by surprise.”

Additional reporting by Shravanth Vijayakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams

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