The All England Club announced last month that Russian and Belarusian athletes would be unable to compete at SW19 this summer in a bid to try and help limit Russia’s global influence amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The ATP and WTA have both been publicly critical of the decision, stating concerns that it could set a “damaging precedent” and unfairly discriminates against individuals. There have even been rumblings that Wimbledon could be stripped of precious ranking points this year as a result.
Wimbledon organisers defended the ban last week, insisting that allowing players from both nations to compete – even with written declarations stating their anti-war sentiment – still risked benefitting “the propaganda machine of the Russian regime”.
They also said it would potentially bring risks to the lives of the players and their families by signing such a declaration, adding that the UK Government’s position had left them with “no viable alternative”.
Former British No1 Andy Murray – who has pledged all of his prize money in 2022 to the children affected by the war in Ukraine – says he does not support a ban, but admits there is no right answer to such a complicated situation.
“I’m not supportive of players getting banned,” he said before a Madrid Open clash with Dominic Thiem on Monday evening.
“My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they’re against the war and against the Russian regime. I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families (as a result).
“I don’t think there’s a right answer. I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I’ve spoken to some of the Ukrainian players. I feel really bad for the players who aren’t allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them.
“But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in. I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can’t play, and I don’t support one side or the other.”
Meanwhile, 21-time Grand Slam champion Nadal called the ban “very unfair” as the ATP Player Council member reflected on the contentious issue of ranking points.
“I think it’s very unfair (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” he said.
“The 2,000 points, whenever we go to the Grand Slams, they are really important and we have to go to those tournaments. So we will have to see the measures that we take.
“At the end of the day, what happens in our game, it doesn’t have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine.”