Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “wrong,” world number one Novak Djokovic said on Monday.
Wimbledon, the third of the four grand slams on the tennis calendar, is arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world. But this year, the men’s and women’s professional tours, along with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), have opted to strip the grand slam of its ranking points following the decision from the tournament’s organizers to ban Russians and Belarusians from playing in this year’s event.
“Collectively, I am glad that players got together and showed to the grand slam that when there is a mistake happening we have to show there will be some consequences,” Djokovic told reporters on Monday.
The ban on Russian players will prevent several high ranked players from competing at the iconic grass court slam.
“I think it (Wimbledon’s ban) was a wrong decision. I don’t support that at all. But at these times, it is a sensitive subject and whatever you decide will create a lot of conflict,” he added.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said in a statement Friday it stands by its decision. Wimbledon organizers said in April that Russians and Belarusians would not be allowed to compete at this year’s tournament.
In a statement, the AELTC said it remained “unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which, through its closely controlled State media, has an acknowledged history of using sporting success to support a triumphant narrative to the Russian people.
“We therefore wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF in removing ranking points for The Championships. We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on Tour,” the statement added.
Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion.
However, individual players from the countries are allowed to compete on the ATP and WTA Tours but not under the name or flag of their countries.
Djokovic said he would still play at Wimbledon this year but criticized the lack of “strong communication” from organizers.
“On a personal level, of course, without getting a chance to play and defend my 4,000 points from Australia and Wimbledon, I will drop them this year,” he said.
“It’s a very unique and weird situation but a grand slam is a grand slam,” he said, adding that Wimbledon “has always been my dream since I was a kid.”
“I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money, but there has to be some standards with some mutual respect,” he said.
“This is one of these kinds of decisions where there will always be someone who will suffer more. It is a lose-lose situation.”
Meanwhile, four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka said she is not sure she will play Wimbledon this year, calling the tournament without points “like an exhibition.”
“The intention of this measure was good, but the execution is all over the place,” she said on Monday.
“I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it’s more like an exhibition. I know this isn’t true, right? But my brain just like feels that way. Whenever I think like something is like an exhibition, I just can’t go at it 100%.
“I didn’t even make my decision yet, but I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances,” she added.