During the first round of the Australian Open, some unfortunate news emerged from the ATP. The organization that runs professional men's tennis announced that Brad Drewett, its CEO and president, will need to arrange for a transition to a leader after receiving a diagnosis of motor neuron disease (commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease). Drewett, an Australian long active in the game, had held the position for about a year after Adam Helfant had left it. He appeared more popular with and sensitive to the players than his predecessor, and he will continue to serve in his position until the ATP board of directions selects his predecessor. Among his most notable initiatives was expanding player prize money at majors, especially for those who lose early in the tournament.
Players like Federer paid respects to Drewett, which WTA CEO Stacey Allaster echoed. According to Federer, "Brad has become a good friend of mine over the years and this is very sad news for all of us at the ATP and the entire tennis community. He is well liked and respected by everyone and has done a tremendous job in leading the ATP over the past 12 months, overseeing some major initiatives and a record-breaking year in 2012. His dedication and service to the sport over the years has been truly admirable and he has been a central figure in helping to grow the ATP product across the globe. Our thoughts are with him and his family during this difficult time."
As Allaster stated, "The thoughts and prayers of the WTA family are with Brad, his family and the entire ATP community at this very difficult time. We know he will fight this terrible disease every step of the way, and have our full support for whatever he needs."
Drewett has served the ATP for nearly four decades following his success in both singles, where he reached the top 50, and doubles, where he reached the top 20. His greatest accomplishment as a player probably came from his quarterfinal appearance at the 1975 Australian Open, when he was just 17. He became involved with ATP management while still a player, serving on the ATP player council and ATP board before transitioning into regional roles upon retiring from the Tour.
"It has been a privilege to serve as executive chairman and president of the ATP, an organization that I've been a part of for more than 35 years since I became a professional tennis player,” said Drewett. "I hold the ATP very close to my heart, and it's with sadness that I make the decision to enter this transition period due to my ill-health."
The ATP will find his shoes difficult to fill and likely will weigh its decision carefully over the next several months. Whoever succeeds Drewett faces a combination of complex issues involving balancing the interests of players, tournaments, and sponsors.