The organizers of the men’s professional tennis tour, the ATP, have called Wimbledon’s decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s Championships, as well as all other grass-court tournaments in Britain this summer, as “unfair”.
In a strong statement, the ATP criticized Wimbledon’s decision, made in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and said it “has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game”.
It continued: “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.”
Wimbledon announced on Wednesday that it would be declining entries from Russian and Belarusian players to this year’s Championships, becoming the first major tennis tournament to reach such a decision.
The ATP and WTA, the organizers of the women’s professional tour, have allowed players from Russia and Belarus to compete under neutral flags since the war in Ukraine began.
But the All England Club said: “In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”
Their stance has also been backed by the Lawn Tennis Association with the aim of “delivering a consistent approach across the summer”, which will impact other tournaments such as Queens, Nottingham and Eastbourne.
It means leading players such as the men’s No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and women’s No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka will be unable to enter, in a move that has been made with the support of the UK Government.
The sports minster, Nigel Huddleston, said: “I welcome this decisive action by the All England Lawn Tennis Club and Lawn Tennis Association. The UK has taken a leading role internationally to make clear that President Putin must not be able to use sport to legitimize Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine.
“While the withdrawal of individual athletes is a complex issue that will divide opinion, there is a bigger cause at stake. We have set out our position with sport governing bodies and event organizers and will continue to encourage them to take appropriate action for their sport.”
The ATP’s full statement read: “We strongly condemn Russia’s reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war.
“Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings.
“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.”