London (AP) – Serbian star Novak Djokovic calls him “crazy”. WTA, ATP and Martina Navratilova do not see the right to sanction. Going to Wimbledon alone with the complete exclusion of Russian and Belarusian tennis professionals has caused severe criticism and much discussion.
Candidates for the title like US Open winner Daniil Medvedev and fourth in the world rankings Aryna Sabalenka will have to stay away from the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world this summer.
For the organizers, this is a necessary consequence of the war of Russian aggression against Ukraine. It is a decision for a more comprehensive exclusion of players, which has not existed in tennis in recent decades, at least for political reasons.
“We do not want to exclude them completely,” Ukraine’s main player Yelena Svitolina told the BBC. “If the players do not speak out against the Russian government, then their expulsion is the right thing to do.” Like other Ukrainian players, the 27-year-old at the break had previously called on the WTA and ATP organizations to urge Russian and Belarusian players to position themselves clearly.
Athletes generally have nothing to do with war, said the world’s number one Serb, Djokovic. “If politics interferes in sports, the result is not good,” said the six-time Wimbledon champion. Given the wars in the Balkans, the 34-year-old recalled that he himself was a child of war. Djokovic stressed that he was the first to condemn the wars, also given the suffering of the civilian population in the wars.
Navratilova: Tennis a “democratic sport”
The tennis icon Navratilova also feels for the Ukrainian population and athletes, but thinks the exclusion from the traditional Grand Slam tournament from June 27 to July 10 is wrong. “Tennis is such a democratic sport. It’s hard to see politics destroying it.” The war is terrible. However, the exception goes beyond what is necessary.
Wimbledon takes a step that surpasses other measures in tennis. The world ITF had removed Russia and Belarus from the list of participants for the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup team competitions due to the Russian attack on Ukraine. But Wimbledon is the first tournament to exclude singles and doubles due to the Russian occupation of Ukraine.
The Russians and Belarusians continue to play in the ATP and WTA tournaments – not under their national flag. In the current clay court tournament in Stuttgart, for example, the draw and game plan do not contain the origins of Wimbledon Belarusian semifinalist Sabalenka. The next Grand Slam tournament is the French Open in Paris, which starts at the end of May.
The WTA and ATP are considering possible measures
Professional organizations WTA and ATP also reacted with criticism Wednesday evening after the organizers of the classic lawn had officially confirmed previous media announcements about the expulsion. The ATP said it was “unfair” to discriminate against players because of their nationality and the decision had “potential to set a damaging precedent”.
The WTA will consider possible steps and measures against this decision, according to a statement from the women’s organization. “The WTA has repeatedly emphasized that individual athletes should not be penalized or barred from participating because of their origin or because of decisions made by their respective governments.”
Wimbledon organizers acknowledged that it was difficult for those affected to suffer from Russian leadership. It is one of the responsibilities of the tournament to limit Russia’s global influence by any means possible, they justified their move. In view of the war, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to take advantage of the performances of tennis professionals at Wimbledon.
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