Tennis Tours Penalize Wimbledon Over Ban on Russian Players

The ATP’s and WTA’s move, made after extensive internal debate and despite pushback from players and pleas from Wimbledon officials, is expected to have little effect on the tournament’s bottom line. The world’s top men’s players who are not from Russia and Belarus are still expected to participate. Novak Djokovic, the world No. 1 men’s player from Serbia and a six-time Wimbledon champion, made it clear on Sunday after winning the Italian Open in Rome that he would not support skipping the event in protest even if he remained against the decision to bar the Russian and Belarusian players.

“A boycott is a very aggressive thing,” Djokovic said. “There are much better solutions.”

This year’s Wimbledon champions will still lift the same trophies hoisted by their predecessors and have their names inscribed on the honor roll posted inside the clubhouse of the All England Club. And neither attendance nor news media coverage of Wimbledon is expected to dip. The winners will be considered legitimate Grand Slam champions.

But the leadership of the ATP, including its player council, which includes stars like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, ultimately decided that it was important to take a strong stand against the ban on individual players in order to dissuade tournaments from barring players — now or in the future—based on political concerns.

“How do you draw the line of when you ban players and when you don’t?” Yevgeny Kafelnikov, a Russian and a former No. 1 singles player, said in a telephone interview from Moscow.

Unlike Wimbledon, the lead-in events in Britain have not been stripped of ranking points despite being formally part of the tours. Wimbledon, as a Grand Slam event, operates independently but does have agreements with the tours on many levels, including ranking points. But the ATP and WTA chose not to strip points from the British lead-in events because other tournaments located on the European continent were still open to Russian and Belarusian players during those three weeks of the grasscourt season. The WTA did announce that it was putting the British tour events in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne on probation because of the ban.

There was also the concern that without ranking points on offer, players would choose to withdraw from the British grasscourt tournaments. Wimbledon, with its huge prize money and prestige, is unlikely to experience such withdrawals even without points but there could still be some attrition.

Wimbledon had come under pressure from the British government to act. The tournament opted for a ban after rejecting the government’s suggestion that Russian and Belarusian players provide “written declarations” that they were not representing their countries; that they were not receiving state funding or sponsorship from companies with strong links to the Russian state; and that they had not and would not express support for the invasion of Ukraine or their countries’ leadership. There was above all concern that signing such a declaration could put players or their families at risk and also concern that the option would not be available to all Russian and Belarusian competitors. Junior players, for example, are routinely funded by the Russian and Belarusian tennis federations and would thus have been unlikely to be eligible to sign.

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