The All England Lawn Tennis Club has banned players from the two countries competing at SW19 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian players have been banned by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) from all UK grass-court events, which includes the third grand slam of the year.
And in a statement, the ATP – who run the men’s world ranking system and weekly tennis tour – intimated they had been left with no decision but to announce that players will not recieve ranking points for competing at Wimbledon.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” read the statement.
“The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP Ranking system. It is also inconsistent with our Rankings agreement.
“Absent a change in circumstances, it is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP Ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022.
“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour. Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries.”
Shortly afterwards, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) announced they would follow suit and replicate the decision taken by the men’s governing body.
“The stance we are taking is about protecting the equal opportunities that WTA players should have to compete as individuals,” read their statement.
“If we do not take this stance, then we abandon our fundamental principle and allow the WTA to become an example to support discrimination based on nationality at other events and in other regions around the world.”
In response, Wimbledon organisers expressed “deep disappointment” in the decision and stressed that they stood by their initial call – labelling it “the only viable decision”.
A Wimbledon statement read: “We appreciate that opinions differ in relation to our decision to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to the championships this year and we deeply regret the impact of this decision on the individuals affected.
“However, given the position taken by the UK Government to limit Russia’s global influence, which removed automatic entry by ranking, and the widespread response of Government, industry, sport and creative institutions, we remain of the view that we have made the only viable decision for Wimbledon as a globally renowned sporting event and British institution, and we stand by the decision we have made.
“We…wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF (International Tennis Federation) 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. We are considering our options, and we are reserving our position at this stage. We are also in discussion with our Grand Slam colleagues.”
Although Wimbledon has been stripped of ranking points, events outside Wimbledon, such as Queen’s and Eastbourne, will retain their ranking points as the ATP and WTA deem that there are alternative tournaments during those weeks that Russian and Belarusian can compete in instead.
World no 2 Daniil Medvedev is the most high-profile male tennis player affected by the ban and the 26-year-old Russian, who won the 2021 US Open, had hit out at the AELTC’s initial decision.
“On the one hand, I can understand it and, on the other, I find it unfair,” Medvedev told Tribune de Geneve. “This is a delicate situation because it sets a precedent and puts other sports competitions in an uncomfortable position.
“Where is the line? What are the rules that should lead to a possible exclusion? For having discussed it with the ATP, we are, us tennis players, considered in terms of law as independent workers.
“But currently in the United Kingdom, self-employed Russians have the right to work. So, if I have the opportunity to play at Wimbledon, I would be delighted. If not, I would accept it.”
Ironically, Medvedev looks set to become world No 1 because of the decision, with reigning Wimbledon men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic – who is currently just 680 points ahead of his Russian contemporary – now unable to defend the 2000 ranking points he won at SW19 last year.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also confirmed it would not grant ranking points to Wimbledon for juniors and wheelchair events.
“The ITF has determined that Wimbledon’s entry criteria banning Russians and Belarusians compromises the integrity of its international competition, in particular its ranking system, as there is a lack of alternative equivalent opportunities for players to compete for ranking points and prize money,” it said in a statement.
The UK government’s Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries urged the governing bodies to consider its decision to remove ranking points.
She said: “The international sporting community rightly moved quickly and came together to condemn (Vladimir) Putin’s illegal and barbaric actions in Ukraine.
“Given the importance of sport and cultural bodies in making the Russian Government an international pariah, we stand squarely behind the decision that Wimbledon and the LTA have taken to stand up for what is right.
“We deeply regret today’s decision and urge the ATP, WTA and ITF to consider its stance on ranking points at the Championships.
“It does not send the right message to either Putin or the people of Ukraine.”