Wimbledon facing backlash over decision to ban Russian players

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Wimbledon facing backlash over decision to ban Russian players

Wimbledon is facing backlash from players both former and current as well as the WTA and ATP over its decision to deny entry to Russian and Belarusian players into this year’s competition.

Wimbledon gave Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a reason for banning these athletes but it was swiftly condemned by the men’s and women’s tours.

The move is the first time players have been banned on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were excluded.

The ban would mean the absence of men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus from the June 27 – July 10 tournament.

Aryna Sabalenka reached the semifinals last year.

Victoria Azarenka is a two-time major champion while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova is a major finalist who will miss out this year.

In a statement on Wednesday, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting, and creative institutions to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”

The players have also been banned from the UK grass-court tournaments held in the build-up to Wimbledon.

The ATP, which governs men’s tennis, said the “unilateral decision” by Wimbledon to exclude players from Russia and Belarus was “unfair” and could potentially set a damaging precedent for the game.

“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings,” the men’s governing body said.

“Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our board and member councils.”

The Women’s Tennis Association said it is “very disappointed” with the decision and was now “evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions”.

“Individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries,”.

“Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified,” the body added.

Both tennis governing bodies have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion but have allowed players from the two countries to continue competing as neutrals.

Martina Navratilova, who won Wimbledon a record nine times between 1978 and 1990, called the move “the wrong decision”.

“Exclusion like this, through no fault of these players, is not the way to go,”.

The World No.1 Novak Djokovic also called into question Wimbledon’s decision.

“I will always be the first one to condemn the war,” said Djokovic. “As a child of war, I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves. Us in Serbia, we know what was happening here in 1999.

“Ordinary people always suffer – we’ve had lots of wars in the Balkans. That being said, I cannot support the Wimbledon decision.

“It’s not the athletes’ fault. When politics interfere with sport, it usually doesn’t turn out well.”

Australia’s John Millman offered his own solution.

“I feel like Ukraine would be better served if Wimbledon donated their entire profit in support aid instead of banning Russian and Belarusian players”.

“I’m in total support of Ukraine and its people. I just feel like Wimbledon is doing this more for their own gain, for good optics rather than to actually help.”

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