Novak Djokovic hit out at the “crazy” decision by Wimbledon on Wednesday to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament over the invasion of Ukraine.
The world number one said he disagreed with war, but said banning athletes was unfair.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” he said at the ATP event in Belgrade. “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 cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy.
“The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, said it was acting to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.
But the ATP and WTA organisers have also criticised the ban, saying it was “unfair” and “very disappointing”.
Russian Daniil Medvedev is Djokovic’s closest rival in the world rankings and denied the 34-year-old a calendar Grand Slam in last year’s US Open final.
Djokovic is playing in just his third tournament of the season in the Serbian capital after being deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open over his Covid-19 vaccination status.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion survived a scare to beat Laslo Djere 2-6, 7-6 (8/6), 7-6 (7/4) in the second round on Wednesday.