05/20 14:40 CDT Wimbledon's Russia ban prompts tours to cut ranking points
Wimbledon's Russia ban prompts tours to cut ranking points
By HOWARD FENDRICH
AP Tennis Writer
PARIS (AP) --- The women's and men's professional tennis tours will not award
ranking points for Wimbledon this year because of the All England Club's ban on
players from Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine, an unprecedented
move that stands as a significant rebuke of the sport's oldest Grand Slam
The WTA and ATP announced their decisions Friday night, two days before the
start of the French Open --- and a little more than a month before play begins
at Wimbledon on June 27.
In a technical sense, this renders the event an exhibition, because there are
no ranking points at stake. Still, it remains Wimbledon, with its traditions
and prestige, from the grass underfoot to the all-white clothing, from the
Royal Box to the strawberries and cream, not to mention millions of dollars in
prize money, and so the expectation is that everyone eligible to enter will do
Russian athletes have been prevented from competing in many sports, including
soccer's World Cup qualifying playoffs, since the country began attacking
Ukraine in February. Belarus has aided Russia in the invasion.
The All England Club said in April it would not allow Russians or Belarusians
to compete, which drew immediate criticism from the WTA and the ATP, along with
some prominent players, such as defending champion Novak Djokovic. It will bear
watching how this whole episode affects the relationships among the various
entities that have a say in the way tennis is run.
"The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on
merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our tour," the ATP said in
a statement. "The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players
from competing in the U.K. this summer undermines this principle and the
integrity of the ATP ranking system."
Saying it made this move "with great regret and reluctance," the ATP added:
"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 on a tour that operates in more than 30 countries."
A statement attributed to WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon and released by that
tour Friday said, in part: "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 penalized or
prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions
made by the governments of their countries."
In addition, the International Tennis Federation said Friday it would not grant
its ranking points for the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon this year,
explaining that "tournament organizers are not permitted to unilaterally impose
The All England Club sent a statement via email expressing its "deep
disappointment" at the removal of ranking points, calling the tours' position
"disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances
of this situation and the position we found ourselves in" and terming it
"damaging to all players."
The club reiterated the two main ways in which it previously defended the
choice to bar Russians and Belarusians: It followed advice from the British
government, and an unwillingness "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
Among the prominent players affected by the ban are reigning U.S. Open champion
Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached No. 1 in the rankings and is currently
No. 2; men's No. 7 Andrey Rublev; women's No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon
semifinalist last year; and Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 who has won the
Australian Open twice.
Medvedev and Rublev are from Russia; Sabalenka and Azarenka are from Belarus.
They are all eligible to compete in Paris, and Medvedev deflected questions
about the topic of Wimbledon's Russia policy on Friday.
"Right now I'm focused on Roland Garros," he said at a pre-tournament news
conference. "I'm here."
When a reporter raised the possibility of legal action against the All England
Club, perhaps via the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Medvedev said: "Me,
personally, I won't go to court."
The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has not announced a
decision about players from Russia and Belarus; that tournament starts Aug. 29.
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