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Wimbledon left pointless as tour chiefs hit back over Russia, Belarus ban

Wimbledon, widely regarded as the world’s most prestigious tennis event, was stripped of ranking points on Friday by the sport’s main tours in response to the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament following 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 option but to remove ATP Ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022,” said an ATP statement.

“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.”

The ATP decision means defending champion and world number one Novak Djokovic will lose 2,000 points.

The WTA, which operates the women’s tour, joined their male colleagues in withholding points for the tournament which starts on June 27.

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

“We greatly value our long-standing relationships with Wimbledon and do not underestimate the difficult decisions faced in responding to recent UK Government guidance,” added the ATP.

“However, we note 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 declaration. 

“Our internal discussions with affected players in fact led us to conclude this would have been a more agreeable option for the Tour.”

‘Further discussions’ –

The body added: “We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an acceptable outcome for all concerned.”

WTA chief executive Steve Simon said that his organisation believed “that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalised or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”

“As a result of the All England Tennis Club’s position that it will not honour its obligation to use the WTA Rankings for entry into Wimbledon, and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships,” he added.

The Wimbledon ban had been widely-condemned especially as Russian and Belarusian players are still allowed to compete at other tournaments including the second Grand Slam of the season at the French Open which starts in Paris Sunday.

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

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

Medvedev, speaking in Paris before the ATP decision was announced, said he will not sue Wimbledon over the ban but admitted “there are a lot of mistakes” behind the controversial decision.

“If I can’t play, I’m not going to go to court for this one,” 26-year-old world number two Medvedev said.

‘Invaders, murderers’

The ATP’s decision was, however, slammed by former Ukraine player Sergiy Stakhovsky who famously defeated Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon in 2013.

“To say that I am disappointed in @atptour would be understatement. Never would expect that anyone can stand on the side of invaders and murderers… but it seems to me that even my fellow players feel sorry for invaders and collaborants from rus/blr,” tweeted Stakhovsky who has joined the Ukraine military to fight the Russian invasion.

“Players which in 85 days were not able to produce any clear message of condemnation of invasion into Ukraine. Shameful day in tennis.”

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also confirmed Friday it was refusing to grant ranking points to Wimbledon for junior and wheelchair events.

British number two Dan Evans, speaking to the BBC at the French Open on Friday before the ATP decision was announced, said he wanted points at stake at the All England Club.

“I think the majority of the players think it is not ideal the other (Russia/Belarus) players can’t play but there should still be points at Wimbledon,” he said.

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