ATP: Chairman Brad Drewett dies

Updated: May 3, 2013, 5:19 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LONDON -- Brad Drewett, a former tour player who led the ATP as executive chairman and helped increase prize money at Grand Slam tournaments, died Friday. He was 54.

He had Lou Gehrig's disease, and the governing body of men's tennis said in a statement he died at his home in Sydney.

"The tennis world lost a strong leader, true gentleman and a great friend today in ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett," said David Haggerty, USTA chairman, CEO and president in a statement. "Brad left an indelible mark on the game and everyone who knew him. The USTA will continue to keep Brad in our thoughts as well as his family, friends and ATP staff."

Drewett was a top-40 singles and top-20 doubles player before he retired in 1990. He was hired in 2006 to lead operations in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific regions. He led the ATP since January 2012.

International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti called Drewett "a valued friend and colleague."

"We were very happy to support him during his various roles at the ATP, most recently as chairman," he said. "His knowledge, experience and enthusiasm will be a great loss to the whole sport."

Players Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish were among those expressing condolences.

"A very sad day for the world of sports and tennis in particular," Nadal, an 11-time major champion, wrote on Facebook. "Our president Brad has passed away. Rest in peace."

WTA chairman Stacey Allaster said the prize money increases were "perfect examples of Brad's brilliant strategic management, and another example of how much he cared about our athletes and the sport's long-term growth."

A moment of silence was observed Friday at the draw ceremony for the Mutua Madrid Open. The Portugal Open will hold a one-minute silence Saturday on center court before the first men's semifinal.

Drewett announced in January he had motor neurone disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The disease affects voluntary muscle activity, including speaking, walking, breathing and swallowing. It usually causes progressive disability.

Drewett's speech was noticeably slurred when he attended a news conference on the opening day of the Australian Open to announce a new sponsor. He had planned to step down once a successor was found.

As a player, he won 181 singles matches and two titles as well as seven doubles titles. In 1975, he captured the Australian Open boys' singles title and a year later made it to the Australian Open singles quarterfinals in his Grand Slam debut. He reached two Australian Open doubles semifinals and the Wimbledon doubles quarterfinals.

Drewett also developed and managed a number of successful businesses in the sport and fitness industry. He had worked as a commentator for two Australian television broadcasters.

He is survived by his wife, Joanne, and children Jack, Ally, Joe and Tom.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.