Tennis star slams 'arrogant' Lleyton Hewitt in ugly war of words

John Isner has hit out at Lleyton Hewitt in an ugly war of words over the arrest of ATP board member Justin Gimelstob.

Gimelstob will face a Los Angeles court this month over an alleged assault on at a Halloween party in October.

The 41-year-old Gimelstob is a former player who turned to coaching and media after retiring from the sport

Part of Isner’s wider coaching group, he is a key figure behind the scenes as the player representative on the ATP’s six-person board.

But while Gimelstob has taken leave from his media role, he has not stepped down or been stood down from his role with the governing body of men’s tennis.

In a tweet in the days after the allegations were made public, Hewitt called on the ATP to “lead by example and do something about this”.

Action could be taken not by the ATP but at a meeting of the 10-man ATP player council, led by president Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson and Isner.

Gimelstob could be removed by a six-to-four vote taken during a conference call expected to take place this week.

Lleyton Hewitt has been criticised by John Isner for his comments. Pic: Getty

Ahead of the meeting, Isner criticised Hewitt for reacting to the first report that emerged over the issue by referencing an ugly episode from the 2001 US Open.

“I don’t think (Justin) should take a leave right now,” he 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, and I’m not calling for his head, or for him to step down from working with Tennis Australia.

“He’s being arrogant.”

Hewitt, then 20, was accused of racism after an incident with a linesman during a second-round match against Blake.

John Isner has defended his friend and part-time coach Justin Gimelstob. Pic: Getty

“I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt,” Blake said after the five-set defeat to Hewitt, who went on to win the tournament.

“If you feel you have a couple of bad calls, it can really frustrate you. When you do bad things on the court, you look back and feel it’s not really who you are.”

Gimelstob’s lawyer said his client “unequivocally and absolutely denies ever engaging in domestic violence or homophobic behavior of any kind”.

“Any suggestions to the contrary are false.”

Gimelstob’s court date is set down for December 12.

Justin Gimelstob will face court later this month. Pic: Getty

“Of course Justin is very close to me, as a friend and as a coach,” Isner said.

“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 doubt.”