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Brad Drewett

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Brad Drewett (Associated Press Photo)
LONDON (AP) - Brad Drewett, a former tour player who led the ATP as executive chairman and president since January 2012, died Friday after a battle with motor neurone disease. He was 54.

The ATP said in a statement the Australian died at his home in Sydney.

"Our thoughts are with Brad's family on this extremely sad day for them, the ATP and the entire international tennis community," the governing body of men's tennis said in a statement. "He will be sorely missed by all."

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, and later played a key role in securing significant prize money increases for all four grand slam events.

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

Mardy F ish, an American pro once ranked in the top 10, said on Twitter that it was a "very very sad day for our great sport."

Drewett announced in January that he had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease - which affects voluntary muscle activity, including speaking, walking, breathing, swallowing and general movement of the body, and usually causes progressive disability.

Motor neurone disease is known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) in many parts of the world, and as Lou Gehrig's disease in the United States.

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

"The ITF family is deeply saddened to learn of the death of Brad Drewett," International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti said. "Brad was a valued friend and colleague to many of us here at the ITF, and we were very h appy to support him during his various roles at the ATP, most recently as chairman. His knowledge, experience and enthusiasm will be a great loss to the whole sport."

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

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