How have Russian tennis players and others reacted to the Wimbledon ban?
The All England Club sent shockwaves across the tennis world a couple of days ago, announcing that players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to participate in the event.
The decision came as a result of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, which started back in February and is still ongoing despite measures from the world’s countries to put an end to it.
What is baffling about the situation is that concerned athletes, high-profile names such as Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov and Victoria Azarenka, have already come out strongly against the war. Despite that, Wimbledon maintains that the ruling had to be enforced in order to “curtain Russia’s global influence.”
The UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has also followed suit, banning tennis players from Russia and Belarus from all events in the country. Italy, meanwhile, is expected to do the same, as recent reports suggest that Russian and Belarussian athletes will be barred from the upcoming Rome Masters as well.
But the tennis fraternity has largely been united in the backlash against the All England Club over this decision, with the ATP and PTPA calling out Wimbledon for being “unfair” and “setting bad precedents.”
Among the affected athletes, a rattled Andrey Rublev recently came out in criticism of the ruling, calling the announcement “illogical” and “discriminating” towards his colleagues.
“What is happening now is complete discrimination against us. The reasons they gave us had no sense, they were not logical. Banning Russian or Belarusian players… will not change anything,” Rublev said.
The World No. 8 suggested that a better course of action would be donating the prize money towards humanitarian relief in Ukraine, adding that it would have achieved something other than just optics.
“To give all the prize money would have a more positive effect to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering. I think that would do something,” Rublev said.
Karen Khachanov has also spoken out against Wimbledon, remarking that he was “devastated” to be barred from the tournament and that he was really sad that things had come to this point.
“About Wimbledon, obviously, I’m just really sad, really sad, disappointed, devastated that these things are happening right now for everybody, you know, and that we came to this point,” Khachanov said. “I mean, I cannot… For me, it’s one of the nicest tournaments in the world.”
Among players of other nationalities, Novak Djokovic has made it clear that he is not in support of the decision. Speaking as a “child of war,” the World No. 1 proclaimed that it was not the fault of the Russian tennis players that the invasion was happening, adding that it was better not to let politics interfere with sports.
“I will always be the first one to condemn the war. As a child of war, I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves,” Djokovic said. “I cannot support the Wimbledon decision. It’s not the athletes’ fault. When politics interfere with sports, it usually doesn’t turn out well.”
Navratilova further asserted that Wimbledon went too far by banning Russian and Belarusian tennis players, especially considering they had already showcased their opposition to the conflict publicly.
John Millman shared a similar opinion to Rublev, tweeting that Wimbledon could have donated their profits to Ukraine instead of banning players.
“I feel like Ukraine would be better served if Wimbledon donated their entire profit in support aid instead of banning the Russian and Belarusian [tennis] players,” Millman wrote.
How have Ukrainian tennis players reacted to the Wimbledon announcement?
Elina Svitolina wants tennis players who denounce Putin publicly to be allowed into Wimbledon
Among Ukrainian tennis players, Elina Svitolina, who led the response from her countryfellows since the early days of the invasion, has disagreed with the decision firmly. Instead, Svitolina opined that Russian and Belarusian tennis players who denounced Putin publicly deserve to be allowed to play in the event.
“We don’t want them banned completely. If players don’t speak out against the Russian government, then it is the right thing to ban them. We just want them to speak up if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government,” Svitolina said in a radio interview. “This is for me the main point. If they didn’t choose, didn’t vote for this government, then it’s fair they should be allowed to play and compete.”
Marta Kostyuk agreed with Svitolina as well, taking to Twitter to declare that players should remain banned unless they speak out.
“Ukraine needs peace and freedom that we are dying for right now. Not money. Anyone who thinks that decision like this one is targeting players personally is pretty selfish. Players are great part of propaganda and big example to their fans,” Kostyuk tweeted. “As we can all see, Wimbledon definitely didn’t get any gain so far and is facing a lot of difficulties. Nothing personal, but I hope other tournaments will act the same. Unless players speak out.”