Wimbledon is useless as tour chiefs battle against Russia and Belarus ban

Wimbledon, widely regarded as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, was stripped of ranking points Friday by the sport’s major tours, threatening to reduce the Grand Slam to the status of a top-level exhibition event.

The ATP and WTA decision was in response to Wimbledon banning Russian and Belarusian players following the invasion of Ukraine.

“It is with great regret and reluctance that we see no other choice but to remove the points from the Wimbledon ATP Rankings for 2022,” a statement from the ATP said.

“Our rules and agreements exist to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if not heeded, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour.

“Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable.”

When world number one Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon in 2021, he got 2,000 points.

Wimbledon officials at the All England Club called the decision by the ATP and WTA “disproportionate”.

The WTA, which operates the Women’s Tour, has joined its male colleagues in withholding points for the tournament which begins June 27.

The ban from Wimbledon ruled out a group of top players including men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and last year’s women’s semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus as well as two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.

– More talks? –

The ATP, however, hinted at a resolution of the impasse.

“We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an outcome acceptable to all concerned.”

WTA chief executive Steve Simon said his organization believes that “individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalized solely because of their nationality or the decisions made by the governments of their countries”.

“Due to the position of the All England Tennis Club that it will not honor its obligation to use the WTA ranking for entry into Wimbledon and to proceed with partial ranking not based on merit, the WTA has taken the difficult decision not to award ranking points for Wimbledon this year,” he added.

The Wimbledon ban has been widely condemned, especially as Russian and Belarusian players are still allowed to participate in other tournaments, including the second Grand Slam of the season at Roland Garros which begins on Sunday in Paris.

“It’s unfair to my Russian colleagues,” said Spanish star Rafael Nadal, two-time Wimbledon winner and 21-time Grand Slam champion, when the sanction was announced.

“It’s not their fault what’s happening with the war.”

The All England Club have expressed their “deep disappointment” with the ATP and WTA.

They said they had taken the “only viable decision” given the British government’s stance to limit Russia’s global influence after the invasion and stick to the ban.

“We deeply regret the impact of this decision on those affected,” said a statement from Wimbledon organizers.

Medvedev, speaking in Paris ahead of the announcement of the ATP decision, said he would not resort to legal action against Wimbledon but admitted ‘there are a lot of mistakes’ behind the ruling controversial.

“If I can’t play, I won’t go to court over this one,” the 26-year-old Medvedev said.

– ‘Invaders, murderers’ –

The ATP’s decision was criticized by former Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who beat 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 stand on the side of invaders and murderers…but it seems to me that even my playmates feel sorry for the invaders of rus/blr,” tweeted Stakhovsky, who joined the Ukrainian military to fight the Russian invasion.

“Players who in 85 days have not been able to produce a clear message of condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine. Shameful day in tennis.”

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has also confirmed that it refuses to award ranking points at Wimbledon for the junior and wheelchair events.

UK Government Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries said: “We strongly support the decision Wimbledon has made to stand up for what is right.

“We deeply regret today’s decision and urge the ATP to reconsider its position on the championship points standings. This sends the wrong message neither to (Vladimir) Putin nor to the people of Ukraine.”

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Herman C. Harkins