Philip Brook reflects on fractured state of tennis as he ends Wimbledon reign

Philip Brook will step down as Wimbledon chairman (Picture: Getty Images)

Philip Brook will end his nine-year reign as Wimbledon chairman with tennis in a state of confusion.

On the one hand, as he proudly points out, prize money has never been higher – with first-round losers now taking home four times more money than they did in 2011 – and the sport as a whole, particularly at Grand Slam level, is performing strongly.

And yet, Brook will walk away from the helm of what is essentially one of the seven pillars of modern tennis – along with the ITF, ATP, WTA and the three other Grand Slams – with the governing bodies more divided than ever.

‘Tennis as we all know it has some issues in terms of the different organisations that are involved in the running of the sport,’ Brook says at a small gathering of media in a boardroom at the All England Club.

‘My personal view is that we would do a better job of running the sport if we worked more closely together as a group and the best example that we all see is what’s happened to Davis Cup and the ATP Cup.

Brook with Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton (Picture: Getty Images)

‘I think everybody would agree it makes no sense for those two new format team competitions to be in the calendar so close to each other and you talk to David Haggerty at the ITF, he agrees, you talk to Chris Kermode at the ATP, he agrees, and yet somehow there isn’t enough goodwill in the system to figure out a way of simplifying it and making it better for tennis.

‘For me if you look at three things, if you look at the calendar, if you look at the ranking system, and you look at the rules of tennis, to me those three things are at the heart of our sport and they actually belong to the sport I would say, they don’t belong to one part of the sport.

‘And so discussions about the tennis calendar should be taken by a group of people, whoever they are, who represent the sport and they make decisions and those decisions are made and everybody has to follow them, and the same with the ranking system and the same with the rules of tennis.

‘We don’t have that today. And because of that people do their own thing acting in the best interests of whichever organisation they represent.’

Brook leaves his own organisation in a strong position. He’ll hand over the keys to incoming chairman Ian Hewitt at what he feels is the perfect time.

Andy Murray’s 2013 Wimbledon win remains Brook’s favourite on-court moment (Picture: Pool/Getty)

His biggest project in recent years, the completion of the Court 1 roof, has concluded and plans are already in place for a two-year Somerset Road build, which will add an underground car park and player drop-off surface as well as new indoor and clay courts.

Hewitt and co. will be tasked with fine-tuning a masterplan to develop the 80-acre Wimbledon Park Golf Course, which will treble the tournament site.

An additional challenge will be to keep player relations peaceful.

While Brook rightly points to vast increases in prize money, a dissenting group – of which world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is a member – have claimed a stronghold in the ATP player council, with an intention to continue lobbying aggressively for a bigger slice of the financial pie.

Djokovic and co. are lobbying for more prize money (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

‘In general the current generation of players, whoever they are, you always face the issue that they turn up, they’re new, the status quo is the status quo – is what it is,’ Brook adds.

‘They don’t understand where we’ve come from by way of example so it is what it is and they always want more. Generations past who have given up their share of prize money in order to allow events to continue to grow and succeed and make them what they are today, there is this continuous transfer of equity from one generation to the next which the current generation don’t necessarily always understand.

‘Spend more time with Rod Laver or even Tim Henman actually and they’d learn things were different, or very, very different not that long ago. Each generation has given up something – they may not have realised it at the time but they are giving up things. The current generation is no different.

‘We are making a decision to spend money for a roof on No. 1 Court rather than put it into the pockets of today’s tennis players and I think that’s the right thing to do. You’ve got to get the balance right, to make sure they’re well looked after but we also need to continue to reinvest.

Brook wants the modern player to recognise Rod Laver’s struggles (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Prize money has gone up a lot, it was £14million when I first started and it’s £38million this year, I am proud of that record. Players may say it’s not enough but it’s grown faster than this business has grown over the past nine years.’

Looking fondly back, Brook is in no doubt of his favourite on-court moment of his time in charge.

‘I think for me the best tennis moment would be when Andy [Murray] won the singles in 2013,’ Brook smiles.

‘That was a really important moment for this club to see a British man winning Wimbledon again after a 77-year gap, and just to be part of the occasion and the presentation party on that day was very special.

‘My worst moment,’ he pauses before laughing: ‘I’m not sure what it was, and I’m not sure I would share it with you if I did.’


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.