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Get To Know: Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President

Chris Kermode starts his three-year term as ATP Executive Chairman and President today. speaks to Kermode, who has been involved in tennis for more than 30 years - as a player and most recently as Tournament Director of the Aegon Championships and Managing Director of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals - during the off-season last month.

What does it mean to you to be leading the ATP?
Chris Kermode: It is a huge honour and it came very quickly during the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. So it hasn't had that much time to sink in, but it is a great opportunity for me. I've been involved in the game pretty much all my life, so I am very much looking forward to it.

Q: What are you looking forward to in 2014?
A: To continue the growth that we've seen in the sport in recent years. Both in terms of on-site attendances and also TV numbers, with people looking at every avenue that they can to watch and engage with tennis and also to try to raise the profile of the sport in the sports and entertainment business.

Q: How much does marketing have a role in that?
A: It's huge. Any sport now would be naïve to think you can get away without marketing and our product is so strong and watched by so many people. We just want to engage with an audience that have never seen live tennis before and get them to experience it on-site, on television or online.

Q: What can people expect your leadership style to be like?
A: That's a very interesting question. It's about listening to everybody. I think everybody needs to have their voice heard, so I will try and be as engaging and as approachable as possible and then build any decisions through consensus.

Q: You have experience as a player, tournament director and a businessman... how important is that mix to your new role?
A: It's hugely important. I got a taste of hacking around as a very average player, but I understand what players go through. I clearly don't understand the demands of a Top 10 player, but I have an understanding of where they are coming from; the struggle and the difficulties playing the qualifying rounds at that sort of level. Then, as a tournament director, to understand from a promoter's point of view, what the issues are. One of the challenges for me is to get both sides to have an understanding of each other's concerns, and issues, and work together.

Kermode Q: With so much competition in sport, that experience must come in very handy?
A: Yes, I think we've all got to understand the demands of people's discretionary income are huge. They are being pulled in loads of different avenues - entertainment options of film, music [and] sport. So we just need to make sure that our market share remains and, hopefully, grows as well.

Q: Apparently you once ran away from home and went to Australia, talk about that please?
A: It's a slight exaggeration that one. I did go. I did leave home quite early and go to Australia. But it was more for me. I was very determined to find my own way and I felt having that gap from where I was brought up, just to see if I could fend for myself, was incredibly important. I learnt a lot in those years and it was very beneficial for me.

Q: How long were you in Australia for?
A: I was there for about six years and it was a great time. I love the country and the people. They were very hospitable and welcoming to me in those sort of formative years. I was very lucky to meet some amazing people, who guided me through those years.

Q: Who were your tennis idols growing up?
A: I grew up in the Borg-McEnroe era. I just loved watching Borg and John. I thought Bjorn was the first sports, certainly tennis star, that I've seen that transcended the sport and actually attracted an audience of people who would never normally have watched it. He just played in a completely different way. No one had ever seen anything like it and it was almost like Beatle mania at some of the events that he turned up to. I had the honour of meeting him actually, in New York for the gathering of the World No. 1s, and it was just great to see someone that you used to idolise when you were younger. 

Q: Is there one particular match that stands out?
A: The famous Wimbledon tie-break [1980 final] that went on and on and on. I think that was one that I will remember probably for most of my life. 

Q: And some of today's stars truly transcend the sport.
A: My son had never really watched tennis before and I brought him to Queen's to watch Rafa play. From thinking maybe that tennis wasn't his thing, he immediately bought the shirt and the racquet, and he's been playing ever since. That's a pretty incredible testament to one player. But all of them... you look at Andy winning Wimbledon; you've got Novak - what he's done with his winning streaks and being World No. 1 - and they are all very, very distinctive characters. So I think that each person can attach themselves to find a quality in one of these guys and make the game very appealing.

Q: Who do you see as the sport's future stars?
A: There are quite a few of them. It is very difficult to predict which ones will come through. But, obviously, we've got Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov, Jerzy Janowicz and Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori. There is a whole raft of them and what is so great is they all play in a completely different way. They all bring something new to the court. I think those are the players who are going to battle it out over the next few years.

Q: Are there any particular storylines you're looking forward to over the next few years?
A: I think it's this changing of the guard. I'm not saying it's imminent in the next year, but over the next three years. I think seeing who those stars are going to be and where they are going to come from is hugely exciting. Everyone has got a view and I'll be very interested.

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ATP Corporate, Chris Kermode

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