Nadal, Djokovic and Murray criticize Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes


There is a growing rift between some of the world’s top tennis stars and Ukrainian players past and present over Wimbledon’s decision to ban competitors from Russia and Belarus due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Explaining his position, Wimbledon said he did not want to “benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime”.

However, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, who have won 10 Wimbledon titles between them, have joined the ATP and WTA in opposing the ban.

“I think it is very unfair (to) my Russian tennis partners, my colleagues,” Nadal said at a news conference on Sunday before the Madrid Open. “It is not his fault what is happening right now with the war.

“I feel sorry for them, Wimbledon just made their decision…the government didn’t make them do it. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks, if the players make some kind of decision on the matter”.

Ukrainian players have largely supported the Wimbledon ban, and Sergiy Stakhovsky, who retired earlier this year and has since joined the Ukrainian army to defend his homeland, condemned Nadal’s stance.

“@RafaelNadal we compete together… we have faced each other on tour”, Stakhovsky wrote on Twitter.

“Please tell me how it is fair that the Ukrainian players cannot return home. How is it fair that Ukrainian children cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?

The decision by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AETLC) marks the first time Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from an elite tennis event following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Several high-profile players would not be able to compete, including Men’s World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Women’s World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka.

Murray, who is donating all of his prize money this season to humanitarian aid in Ukraine, said he was “not supportive” of the plan to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon, but added there was no “right answer” to the difficult situation.

“My understanding from the guideline was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a statement that they are against the war and against the Russian regime,” he told reporters at the Madrid Open.

“I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families (as a result).”

In the days after the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian parliament passed a law imposing prison sentences of up to 15 years for intentionally spreading “fake” news about the military, greatly increasing the risks of Russians speaking out. against the war.

Reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will not be able to compete at WImbledon this year.

Meanwhile, Djokovic made reference to his exclusion from the Australian Open for not being vaccinated against covid-19 when he voiced his opposition to the ban for the second time.

“It’s not the same, but going through something similar earlier this year, it’s frustrating knowing you can’t play,” Djokovic said.

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

Following criticism from the tennis world, the AELTC defended its decision in a press conference last week.

“Even if we were to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players with written statements, we would run the risk that their success or participation in Wimbledon would be used to benefit the Russian regime’s propaganda machine, something we could not accept,” the tournament chairman said. , Ian Hewitt. reporters last Tuesday.

Players have yet to announce a coordinated response, but the ATP and WTA are discussing countermeasures that could include the removal of Wimbledon ranking points.

In a recent interview with CNN, Ukrainian tennis star Marta Kostyuk spoke about the psychological impact the Russian invasion has had on her.

“I started a couple of weeks ago, which helps me tremendously. But you know, sometimes it gets to a point where the thoughts that come to you are scary,” said Kostyuk, who is acutely aware of the importance of trying to manage his feelings and says he has been working with a psychologist.

“I don’t want to say the words because you know, you can understand what I’m trying to talk about.

“Because at that moment, so many things are happening, you need to carry so much at once that you think, I can’t handle this anymore.

“I’m like, what’s the point where everything goes? It never ends, what should I do with my life now? What am I living for? she said.

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