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'Crazy' Wimbledon ban on Russian, Belarusian players irks Djokovic and tennis lovers

Wimbledon announced on Wednesday that it had barred all Russian and Belarusian players from this year's championships due to the invasion, which Russia calls a "special operation".

Crazy Wimbledon ban on Russian Belarusian players irks Djokovic and tennis lovers snt
London, First Published Apr 21, 2022, 10:53 AM IST

Wimbledon's decision to ban all Russian and Belarusian players from this year's championships due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine has created a storm among tennis enthusiasts, with several questioning the move to discriminate between players and the passports they hold.

World number one Novak Djokovic, too, voiced his opinion over this 'crazy' decision. The 34-year-old, who grew up in war-torn Serbia, said the athletes had nothing to do with the ongoing conflict.

"I will always condemn war. I will never support war being myself a child of war," Djokovic told reporters at the Serbia Open, an ATP 250 event in Belgrade.

"I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia, we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon. I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good," he added.

The grasscourt Grand Slam is the first tennis tournament to ban individual competitors from the two countries, meaning men's world number two, Daniil Medvedev from Russia and women's fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will be banned from the June 27-July 10 tournament.

ATP, WTA slam decision

The All England Lawn Tennis Club's (AELTC) decision has been criticized by the ATP and WTA. In a statement released, the ATP said, "We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game."

"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils. It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis. In parallel, we will continue our joint humanitarian support for Ukraine under Tennis Plays for Peace," the ATP added.

“We are, however, very disappointed in today’s announcement by the AELTC and the LTA to ban individual athletes who are from Russia and Belarus from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events,” the WTA’s statement read.

“A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination. That principle is expressly set forth in our rules and has been agreed to by both AELTC and LTA. Prohibitions against discrimination are also clearly expressed in their own rules and the Grand Slam rules," the WTA added.

The move is the first time players have been banned based on nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were excluded. The AELTC said it would "consider and respond accordingly" if circumstances change between now and June.

Decision sparks outrage on Twitter

Several tennis enthusiasts slammed Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year's prestigious tournament, with most users calling out Britain's hypocrisy. One user stated, "This does not sit well with me one bit. Issuing an ultimatum to a tennis player to denounce an autocrat knowing he and his family will suffer, is deeply unfair. The invasion of Ukraine was not ordered by Daniil Medvedev."

Meanwhile, another user added, "Has Wimbledon ever banned American players for our invasion of Afghanistan? Iraq? Overthrowing Ghaddafi in Libya? Support for Saudi Arabia in their war against Yemen? Hypocrites and scumbags, all."

Here's a look at some of the reactions on the micro-blogging site:

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