Rafael Nadal wore one on his bag. Novak Djokovic wears his when he goes to meet the press. Juan Martin Del Potro’s coach and various Tour officials have all been seen around the practice courts and grounds of the All England Club wearing the small round black BD badges as a tribute to ATP president Brad Drewett who passed away in May, aged 54, due to a neurodegenerative illness.
As head of the ATP from January 2012-13, Drewett – a former top 40 singles and top 20 doubles player, ATP board member and executive – led negotiations for significantly increased prize money for all players at Grand Slams. He was a pioneer growing the game in Asia, and as ATP Tour finals director for 11 years, ensured the event’s enormous international success. But more resonantly for the world tennis family, Drewett’s impressive CV was underpinned by the fact that he was a warm, dynamic and generous-spirited man, a true ‘people person’.
“In my view, it’s very rare you find a really genuine friend in life,” said Wally Masur, his compatriot and former doubles partner. “But for me, and for a lot of others I’m sure, he was the best mate. He was always ready to help you. He’d come up with opportunities that he thought were a good fit for you. He brokered deals, introduced you to people, brought you along for the ride. His success in all his ATP roles stemmed from the fact he was great with people. He had friends in the highest places but he was always the friend of everyone. As an example, the man who stayed longest as his wake was a knockabout countryman who drove a tractor.”
Masur first met Drewett when they played against each other, aged 18 and 20-odd respectively. “Through that match we became friends. We played together, travelled together. In those days, you didn’t have a physio, a trainer, a coach, you travelled with your mates. Brad was a very popular character, very galvanising, full of ideas, always the one finding a spot to go skiing during a week off. He was the sort of guy who liked to keep things lively. Above all, he was a very loyal friend.”
The warmth inspired by Drewett has been reflected in the numerous tributes to him. At the Madrid Open, the ATP and WTA's most famous faces shared a minute's silence in the Manolo Santana stadium with Santana himself lining up wearing a ribboned black badge with Nadal, Roger Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nicolás Almagro, Serena Williams, Marion Bartoli and so on.
At Wimbledon, ATP Tour representatives unveiled a new trophy for the year-end Barclays ATP World Tour Finals which will be known as the Brad Drewett Trophy.
They also published a special commemorative coffee table book, entitled No.1, which celebrates all year-end ATP World Tour No.1s over the past 40 years. From Ilie Nastase in 1973, through to fellow year-end No.1s Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in 2012, the book features exclusive interviews as well as never-seen-before photography to provide fans a unique insight into the emotions and mind-set of the world’s greatest players as they battle to reach the summit of world tennis.
“Brad enjoyed a long friendship with Ken Rosewall. He loved the heritage and tradition of the game, and he understood that that is what is most important for the game going forward. As ATP President, he came to the role with a good understanding of the business perspective, and as an ex-player and a friend of the players. I think that’s what made him unique. He worked hard his whole life, as a player, in his corporate and business life, as an administrator. It was a cruel blow for tennis to lose him.”