Tennis governing bodies have been accused of siding with ‘invaders and murderers’ after demoting Wimbledon to exhibition status.
Wimbledon, widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious tennis event, was stripped of ranking points by the sport’s major tours on Friday in response to the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament after the invasion of Ukraine.
The move threatened to reduce Wimbledon to the status of a high-profile exhibition event.
“It is with great regret and reluctance that we see no choice but to remove Wimbledon’s ATP ranking points for 2022,” an ATP statement said.
“Our rules and agreements are there to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if not addressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour.
“Discrimination through individual tournaments is just not feasible.”
Due to the ATP decision, defending champion and number one in the world Novak Djokovic loses 2000 points.
The WTA, which hosts the women’s tour, joined with their male counterparts in withholding points for the tournament, which starts on June 27.
The Wimbledon suspension has banned a host of top players, including Daniil Medvedev, the world’s number two men and last year’s semi-finalist, Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka, and two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.
The All England Club expressed its “deep disappointment” at the decision.
“We appreciate that opinions differ regarding our decision to reject Russian and Belarusian players from participating in The Championships this year, and we deeply regret the impact of this decision on the individuals affected,” it said. in a statement.
“Given the stance the UK government has taken to limit Russia’s global influence, removing automatic ranking-based access, and the widespread response from government, industry, sport and creative institutions, we remain of the view that we are the only viable decision for Wimbledon as a globally renowned sporting event and British institution, and we stand by the decision we have made.”
The ATP’s decision was also criticized by former Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky who famously defeated Roger Federer on Center Court at Wimbledon in 2013.
“To say I’m disappointed in @atptour would be an understatement. I would never expect anyone to be on the side of invaders and killers… but it seems to me that even my fellow players feel sorry for invaders and rus/blr associates,” tweeted Stakhovsky, who has joined the Ukrainian military to to fight the Russian invasion.
“Players who failed to deliver a clear message of condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine in 85 days. Shameful tennis day.”
Another former Ukrainian pro, Alex Dolgopolov, described it as a “very bad decision”.
The ATP did not close the door, adding that it “hoped for further discussions with Wimbledon that would lead to an acceptable outcome for all concerned”.
“We value our long-standing relationships with Wimbledon and do not underestimate the difficult decisions we have to make when responding to recent guidelines from the UK government,” the ATP added.
“We note, however, that this was informal guidance, not a mandate, which offered an alternative option that would have left the decision in the hands of individual players competing as neutral athletes through a signed statement.
“In fact, our internal discussions with involved players have led us to the conclusion that this would have been a more pleasant option for the Tour.”
WTA chief executive Steve Simon said his organization believed that “individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalized or prevented solely because of their nationality or the decisions made by their country’s governments.”
“As a result of the All England Tennis Club’s position that it will not honor its obligation to use the WTA rankings to participate in Wimbledon and continue with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has faced the difficult decision not to award WTA. ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships,” he added.
The Wimbledon ban has been widely condemned, especially as Russian and Belarusian players are still allowed to compete in other tournaments, including the second Grand Slam of the season at the French Open, which starts in Paris on Sunday.
“It’s unfair to my Russian colleagues,” Spanish star Rafael Nadal, two-time Wimbledon winner and 21-time Grand Slam champion, said when the ban was announced.
“It’s not their fault what’s happening to the war right now.” Medvedev, who spoke in Paris before the ATP decision was announced, said he will not sue Wimbledon over the ban, but admitted that “there are many flaws” behind the controversial decision.
“If I can’t play, I won’t go to court for this,” said 26-year-old world number two Medvedev.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also confirmed on Friday that it refused to award ranking points to Wimbledon for junior and wheelchair events.
British runner-up Dan Evans, who spoke to the BBC at the French Open on Friday before the ATP decision was announced, said he wanted to put points on the line at the All England Club.
“I think the majority of players don’t think it’s ideal that the other players (Russia/Belarus) can’t play, but there should still be points at Wimbledon,” he said.
— with AFP
Originally published as Wimbledon stripped of ranking points in a decision that stuns tennis