World number one Novak Djokovic has criticized Wimbledon organizers for their “crazy” decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament in response to the Ukraine invasion.
Djokovic, the reigning Wimbledon men’s singles champion, said he “cannot support” the All England Club’s decision and warned that it is “not good” for politics to interfere with the sport.
The decision prevents the likes of men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev from competing at the Grand Slam event, which takes place from June 27 to July 10.
World number one Novak Djokovic criticized the ‘crazy’ decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players
Russian Daniil Medvedev will have to stay out of Wimbledon because he was banned from playing
The banning of several of Wimbledon’s top 100 players has left threats of possible legal action, and possible removal of ranking points, hanging over a centerpiece of the British sporting summer.
Player bodies in the form of the ATP and WTA Tours, which are representative organisations, have raised concerns about the ban and are outraged at the prospect of members being excluded from high-profile opportunities to win prizes and points.
Ultimately, however, Wimbledon could not face the prospect of players from pariah nations lifting their trophies at this, of all years, Center Court Centenary.
That precipitated Wednesday’s action, which the ATP and WTA were only briefed on Tuesday afternoon.
The All England Club is preparing to take legal action in response to the decision.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being a son of war myself,” said Djokovic, whose chances of retaining his Wimbledon crown have been boosted by Medvedev’s absence from the Serbian Open.
I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history.
‘However, I can’t support the Wimbledon decision, I think it’s crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.’
Ukraine’s former world number three Elina Svitolina, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon three years ago, suggested that Russian and Belarusian players should be allowed to take part in the event if they denounce Vladimir Putin’s war.
Elina Svitolina said that Russian and Belarusian players should be able to play if they denounce the invasion of Ukraine.
The ban was implemented in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in February.
“The best way is not to ban them completely, but to make them talk about the war in Ukraine, ask them if they support the invasion in Ukraine, if they support the government,” Svitolina told Sky News.
‘And if they can answer those questions and if they say they don’t support it [the war]they don’t support Putin, they don’t support Lukashenko, then they would be allowed to participate.’
The ATP criticized the decision, saying it is “unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game”, while the WTA said it was “disappointed” by the “discriminatory” move.
A LEGAL VIEW OF THE WIMBLEDON DECISION
‘Wimbledon is operated by The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (‘AELTC’). In that sense, the AELTC has the power to control participation in the tournament in the same way that the organizers control entry to other elite events in other sports. For example, entry to the Masters golf tournament is apparently by invitation only,” says Stephen Taylor Heath, director of sports law at JMW Solicitors.
‘Wimbledon, like the Masters, however, also has the status of a ‘major’ tournament due to its history and quality of course. In addition, he carries world ranking points and association with professional tours. Wimbledon is listed by the ATP (men) and the WTA (women) as part of their respective tours.
‘Consequently, even when entry is essentially by invitation, it can be anticipated that a player will automatically receive an invitation due to their world ranking or previous success.
“In this regard, players who are prohibited from participating by the AELTC may attempt to argue that they are being deprived not only of potential prize money, but also of world ranking points which can have a knock-on effect with bonuses from season finale, entry into events such as the Tour Finals and sponsor bonuses.
‘The players’ arguments would be bolstered by the argument that Wimbledon’s position is out of step with other majors and with the ATP or WTA itself.
“Ultimately, any legal challenge would likely be undermined by the AELTC’s argument that they are acting within their powers under the event constitution and any player wishing to participate must comply with the event constitution. It is hard to see how the decision violates UK law on discrimination or any other grounds. They will be able to face the ATP/WTA evaluating their status as a major and ranking tournament. In reality, however, such a move is unlikely given the current political landscape, particularly as his stance would appear to have the support of the government.”
The Kremlin also reacted furiously. Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said: “Making athletes hostage to political intrigues is unacceptable.”
However, there has been support from the British government and other Grand Slam tournament organizers.
Stephen Taylor Heath, head of sports law at JMW Solicitors, suggested any legal challenge may fail as the All-England Club has the power to “control participation in the tournament in the same way that organizers control entry to other events. elite in other sports”. .
“Ultimately, any legal challenge would likely be undermined by the AELTC’s argument that they are acting within their powers under the event constitution and any player wishing to participate must comply with the event constitution,” Heath added.
“It is difficult to see how the decision violates UK law on the grounds of discrimination or otherwise.”
Men’s world number eight Andrey Rublev and fourth-ranked women Aryna Sabalenka, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year, are among the other big names set to miss playing in the tournament as a result of the decision.
Russian World No.15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, will also be absent.