Wimbledon has had its ranking points stripped by the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours over its decision to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from the 2022 tournament due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
In addition, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said it will not grant ranking points to Wimbledon this year for junior and wheelchair tennis events.
The tours’ extraordinary revenge has sparked a furious backlash from the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, and Ukrainian tennis players.
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The AELTC expressed ‘deep disappointment’ and said they were ‘considering their options’.
Russia and Belarus have been banned from international team competitions following the invasion, but the ATP and WTA have allowed players from the two countries to continue competing as neutrals.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” the ATP said on Friday.
“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.”
WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said: “Nearly 50 years ago, the WTA was founded on the fundamental principle that all players have an equal opportunity to compete based on merit and without discrimination.
“The WTA believes 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.”
The moves effectively reduce the world’s most famous tennis tournament to an exhibition event, albeit with significant prestige and prize money.
“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,” the AELTC said.
“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 were not prepared to take any actions which could risk the personal safety of players, or their families. We believe that requiring written declarations from individual players – and that would apply to all relevant players – as a condition of entry in the high-profile circumstances of Wimbledon would carry significant scrutiny and risk.”
The AELTC said Russia capitalising on its players winning at Wimbledon was an untenable situation.
“In addition, we remain unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which, through its closely controlled state media, has an acknowledged history of using sporting success to support a triumphant narrative to the Russian people,” it continued.
“We therefore wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF 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.”
Players react to ‘shameful’ decision
The most notable of the players banned, Russian world No.2 Daniil Medvedev, reiterated on Friday he will not take the AELTC to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to contest it.
“I’m not a lawyer… if I can’t play I’m not going to go to court for this one,” Medvedev said.
Russian football authorities have gone to CAS to argue against bans on football teams.
Ukrainian tennis players Sergiy Stakhovsky and Alexander Dolgopolov called out the ATP and WTA, while British MP Nigel Huddleston said the tours should reconsider their decisions.
“To say that I am disappointed in ATP Tour would be understatement.,” Stakhovsky wrote.
“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 Russia and Belarus.
“Players which in 85 days where not able to produce any clear message of condemnation of invasion into Ukraine. Shameful day in tennis.”
Dolgopolov, who had shared purported videos of Russian attacks earlier in the day, said Russian propagandists had already latched on to the ATP and WTA decision.
“Very poor decision. Can’t sit on two chairs,” he said.
“There is a reason Wimbledon is probably the most known tennis competition.
“Points or no points, there are things way bigger than tennis and in these hard times, Wimbledon is on the right side and will stay with its perfect reputation.
“As for the rest, it’s their choice.”