John Isner, the American No 1, has told reporters that his former coach Justin Gimelstob should remain in his position on the ATP board while allegations of assault are investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Isner’s view is significant because he is one of the 10 members of the ATP player council who have the right to remove former grand-slam doubles champion Gimelstob from the board if they feel he is not representing their best interests, or indeed those of the sport.
Isner was quoted on espn.com saying, "Of course Justin is very close to me, as a friend and as a coach. But even if he wasn't, at the current time I would still support him because he's innocent until proven guilty. We'll know the facts soon enough. It might not be a popular opinion, but as of now, I have to give Justin benefit of the doubt."
Isner also referred to the tweet posted by former Wimbledon champion Lleyton Hewitt on November 23, two days after Gimelstob had been arrested on suspicion of assaulting 50-year-old venture capitalist Randall Kaplan. “The ATP world tour must lead by example and do something about this,” tweeted Hewitt, whose own former coach Roger Rasheed was himself ousted from the ATP board by a vote of the player council a month ago.
"I don't think [Justin] should take a leave right now," Isner said. "We don't know the facts yet. Hewitt doesn't know the facts, either. He's the guy who was involved in his own nasty situation with James Blake [at the 2001 US Open], and I'm not calling for his head, or for him to step down from working with Tennis Australia. He's being arrogant."
Isner is part of a strong north American contingent on the player council, which also includes Sam Querrey and Canada’s Vasek Pospisil. According to sources, this group has generally supported Gimelstob’s views on issues such as the contested 2019 pay deal. Rasheed voted this through and was then summarily dismissed by a 7-3 majority at a player council meeting held in Paris.
Last week, The Telegraph revealed allegations from three restraining orders filed in court against Gimelstob. The most recent was filed by Kaplan – a friend of Gimelstob’s estranged wife Cary – and included the claim that “somebody attacked me from behind, knocked me to the ground, pinned me down, and punched me in the face and head more than 50 times in front of many witnesses. During this assault, he continuously screamed, ‘I am going to ----ing kill you’.”
The other two restraining orders were filed by Cary Gimelstob, and by a businessman named Kris Thabit, who both alleged that Justin Gimelstob had assaulted them. The Telegraph also published testimony from three paddle-tennis players who alleged that Gimelstob had crossed the net at a 2017 tournament in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, and laid hands on his opponents.
Gimelstob’s lawyer, Shawn Holley, initially complained that The Telegraph had not given her enough time to respond to our allegations. At the weekend, though, she released a longer statement to certain news outlets.
“Mr. Gimelstob did not intend to respond to the recent media coverage about him and instead focus on his family and career,” the statement said. “However, he now feels compelled to do so based on the nature of numerous blatantly false allegations. Mr. Gimelstob unequivocally and absolutely denies ever engaging in domestic violence or homophobic behaviour of any kind. Any suggestions to the contrary are false.
“While Mr. Gimelstob cannot respond to every allegation here due to ongoing legal matters, many are baseless, contradicted by neutral third parties and court rulings, and driven by unfortunate personal vendettas. Mr. Gimelstob looks forward to clearing his name in the appropriate forums and moving on with his family and career.”