Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players divides tennis with Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal speaking out

Wimbledon could get a little awkward this year with the biggest names in world tennis calling the tournament out for its controversial rules and Rafa Nadal is ready to take action.

Wimbledon could get awkward this year as the biggest names in world tennis publicly criticising the tournament’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players.

A week after Novak Djokovic slammed the news - which the All England Club said was to show solidarity with Ukraine - Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray have added their voices to those

against the move.

Nadal described Wimbledon’s position “unfair” and “the most drastic option”, before calling for the ban to be overturned.

The ban rules out a swathe of talented players, including men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and last year’s women’s semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

“It’s unfair for my Russian colleagues,” said Nadal, a 21-time grand slam champion. “In that sense it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war.

“I’m sorry for them. I wish it was not this way, but at the end of the day we know that this is what we have.”

Nadal, who is returning to competitive play at the Madrid Masters after a six-week hiatus due to a rib injury, said it may fall upon him and his fellow players to take a stand.

“As a fellow player, what can I say? I feel sorry for them,” he said.

Rafael Nadal has slammed Wimbledon’s ban
Rafael Nadal has slammed Wimbledon’s ban

“I wish this was not the case.

“Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks and let’s see if we as players need to take a stand. There is something wrong.

Nadal also criticised Wimbledon for going beyond their remit.

“When a government orders something, you need to follow the rules,” he said. “In this case, the government issued a recommendation and Wimbledon decided to impose the most drastic option without being forced to do so.”

Both the ATP and WTA have said they will consider sanctions against Wimbledon is the ban is held up. Speculation suggests that while slams fall under the ITF remit, both governing bodies could withold ranking points rendering Wimbledon near futile.

“We know that Slams are outside the ATP, but as ATP we grant them the most points of all events,” said Nadal.

“They are the most important. 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, and it’s very unfair thing for them, for sure.”

Murray meanwhile was a little more diplomatic when asked about his home slam’s stance preferring to take aim at government.

“My take is that it’s an unbelievably complex situation,” he said.

“I have spoken to some of the Russian players, to some of the Ukrainians. 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 as well and I know how difficult a situation they were in as well.

“Some of the stuff that I haven’t agreed with is that, ‘Oh, well, Wimbledon only cares about itself, it doesn’t care about the players’.”

“They do care about the players and I don’t think that is a fair criticism of them. I think that the guidance from the government was not helpful because my understanding 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 that was a decision that was taken because if something happened to one of the players or their families, that’s obviously not good either.

Andy Murray does not believe Wimbledon has made the right decision
Andy Murray does not believe Wimbledon has made the right decision

BAN ‘JUST NOT RIGHT’

Meanwhile, world number one Djokovic said he has not been in contact with anyone from the ATP Tour but understands that discussions are underway to explore the different ways Wimbledon’s decision can be countered.

The Serbian star has had to miss some of the biggest events so far this season -- Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami -- due to his Covid vaccination status.

“It’s not the same thing, but going through something similar earlier this year for myself, it’s frustrating knowing that you’re not able to play,” said the 20-time Grand Slam champion.

“I still stand by my position that I don’t support the decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right, but it is what it is.

“They are entitled to make the decision, and now I guess it’s on the player council, the tour management, to really decide, along with the players, what is the best solution in this situation, whether they keep the points, protect the points, take away 50 percent of the points or whatever.” Of the multiple options on the table at the moment, Djokovic believes that completely stripping Wimbledon of ranking points is the least likely.

Holding a Grand Slam without ranking points on offer could position it as a glorified exhibition tournament but Djokovic does not see it that way.

“Wimbledon and Grand Slams are more than tournaments where you earn 2,000 points if you win. There is history behind it,” said Djokovic, who is the reigning champion at the All England Club.

He does however predict that whatever decision is made regarding the points, it will have a “big ripple effect” on the tour.

“I think in this particular situation, you won’t have everyone happy, so there is going to be somebody that’s going to suffer more consequences.”str/jc

Originally published as Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players divides tennis with Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal speaking out