THE curtain on Paul McNamee’s two-act play for the Tennis Australia presidency has been drawn by the preferred establishment candidate, Sydney lawyer Stephen Healy, who has nevertheless pledged to engage the disaffected elements of Australia’s fractured tennis community that McNamee sought to represent.For the second time in six months, the high-profile challenger yesterday lost a secret ballot of the member associations by what is believed to be a small margin, with Healy to serve an extended transitional period as president-elect until October when he succeeds Geoff Pollard, who will retire after a 21-year reign. It is considered unlikely that the twice-beaten McNamee will stand for the position again, with the door now closed until 2013.Healy, a TA board member and the Tennis NSW president, confirmed a more flexible player development program and increased grassroots participation would be among his priorities in a more inclusive regime, and will chase experienced coaches Tony Roche and Jason Stoltenberg, among others. He will assume a newly non-executive, part-time, role for the next three years, earning a reduced annual salary of $75,000 with a maximum six-year tenure.”It’s time to move forward, put all that’s happened in recent times behind us and to get on with restoring the game to its former position,” Healy said. ”I think it’s critical that we heal some of the rifts that have existed in the game over the last few months. It’s going to be very inclusive and honest and transparent administration. We obviously want to build it from grassroots, and obviously player development is a huge issue for us and the transition of players, so there’s plenty of challenges, but I’m really excited about the opportunity to take them on.”McNamee, the entrepreneurial former Australian Open chief executive who continues to run Perth’s Hopman Cup, issued a statement thanking his many supporters – they include, most prominently, Lleyton Hewitt – and expressing his disappointment at the result, but vowing to remain involved.”The future of this sport is going to depend on the entire tennis family, and I congratulate Stephen Healy and am heartened to hear him say there’s a role for the disaffected members of the tennis community,” McNamee said. ”I intend to continue my involvement in the sport, particularly in the Hopman Cup, and in addition intend to take up an opportunity in the critical implementation of world-class claycourts in Australia.”He later declined interview requests to elaborate on either his future or the claycourt initiative.Healy, 50, was the Australian junior hardcourt doubles champion in 1977, later winning a US college tennis scholarship and earning an ATP world ranking in singles and doubles. At the instigation of his long-time friend John Newcombe, Healy later joined Australia’s player development board – and Newcombe remains a strong ally who wrote a campaign letter to the member associations urging a vote for Healy.The partner at prominent law firm Gadens was also the preferred candidate of Pollard and chief executive Steve Wood, but Pollard declined to offer any details of the result, or even to comment on whether he had again submitted his casting vote in advance in case it should be needed to break an 8-8 deadlock. ”We had two good candidates,” Pollard said. ”Both had good credentials and both had support around the table, but Stephen will be the next president.”Several McNamee backers said the challenge for Healy now would be to follow through on his impressive list of promises, and bring together the many disparate factions in Australian tennis.He would, Healy said, personally approach key figures.That may or may not include McNamee, who has retreated quietly after a far more public campaign than the last but for, effectively, the same result.
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