Djokovic, Nadal, Svitolina: what the players have said about Wimbledon's Russia ban

The Grand Slam's decision stop Russian and Belarusian players taking part - and the call to remove the tournament's ranking points - have provoked strong reaction

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The decision by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in April to ban Russian and Belarusian player from competing in this year's Wimbledon was always going to be controversial.

Players from the two countries had been permitted to continue taking part on the tennis tour but under a neutral flag and with no anthem played.

Earlier this week, the UK Grand Slam had its ranking points stripped by the ATP and WTA Tours over the decision. Both moves have provoked a strong response from players. Here is a selection of the responses:

Novak Djokovic (Serbian world No 1)

“Collectively, I am glad that players got together and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening we have to show there will be some consequences.

“I think it [Wimbledon's ban] was a wrong decision. I don't support that at all. But at these times, it is a sensitive subject and whatever you decide will create a lot of conflict.”

Rafael Nadal described Wimbledon's decison as 'very unfair'. Getty

Rafael Nadal (Spanish world No 5)

“I think it's very unfair [on] my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war.

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

“At the end of the day, what happens in our game doesn't have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and the bad situation they are having in Ukraine.”

Marta Kostyuk (Ukrainian world No 58)

“I would say 80-85 per cent of the players had nothing to do with the [WTA] decision [to strip Wimbledon of ranking points]. It’s so ridiculous I couldn’t believe it.

“None of the players’ representatives contacted me. None of them asked about my opinion, what I think. It’s like Ukrainian players don’t exist.

“I want my fellow players to support and understand the situation and be vocal on some things as well.

“But I mean, look at what Rafa said, look at what Novak said. How can you get the support from the tour when top three players say these things?”

Marta Kostyuk said the decision to strip Wimbledon of its ranking points was 'ridiculous'. Getty

John Millman (Australian world No 91)

“Look, my old man's flown over for it, Wimbledon's hallowed ground, mate, a beautiful place. I love it. But I don't like how they went about making the decision.

'I'm getting older, there's probably not going to be so many opportunities to play Wimbledon, so I think I'll play but maybe I'll get banned for saying this stuff.

“Without really any consultation, a unilateral decision was made to ban players. It just goes against what tennis is about.”

Aliaksandra Sasnovich (Belarusian world no 47)

"I wanted to play Wimbledon so much, it's one of my favourite tournaments but I respect the decision.

"Normally, I speak with some of the Ukraine players. We are not friends, we are just colleagues but I support them 100 per cent.

"I want the war to finish as soon as possible. I don't support the war and am against the violence. I just want peace."

Andy Murray (British world No 67)

“I'm not supportive of players getting banned. The guidance from the government was not helpful.

“I don't think there's a right answer. I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I've spoken to some of the Ukrainian players. I feel really bad for the players who aren't allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them.

“I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can't play, and I don't support one side or the other.”

Elina Svitolina said that Russian and Belarusian players must speak out against the war in Ukraine. AP

Elina Svitolina (Ukrainian world No 7)

“As athletes we live a life in the public eye and therefore have an enormous responsibility. In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening.

"There comes a time when we must consider silence as a betrayal. Organisations should subject Russian and Belarusian athletes to three simple questions, in which they declare that they are opposed to the war and to the regimes of their countries.

“In the event of no response, the right is excluded. Silence is complicity with the oppressors.”

Daniil Medvedev (Russian world No 2)

“On the one hand, I can understand [the decision by Wimbledon] and, on the other, I find it unfair. This is a delicate situation because it sets a precedent and puts other sports competitions in an uncomfortable position. Where is the line? What are the rules that should lead to a possible exclusion?

“If there are points, I cannot become No 1, I'm going to be gutted. It is what it is. I cannot change some decisions, both about ATP and Wimbledon.”

Daniil Medvedev said Wimbledon's call 'puts other sports competitions in an uncomfortable position'. EPA

Iga Swiatek (Polish world No 1)

“All the Russian and Belarusian players are not responsible in what’s going on in their country. But on the other hand, the sport has been used in politics and we are kind of public personas and we have some impact on people. … every solution is going to be wrong for some people.

“It would be nice if the people who are making decisions were making decisions that are going to stop Russia's aggression.”

Lesia Tsurenko (Ukrainian world No 119)

“I don't know if I can ask players to care more, but I would like to see that from the players, from the WTA, from ATP. I would like top players just to support more and to show more understanding of what is really going on.

“I want people to understand that war is terrible and there is nothing worse in this world than a war. I think when it's not in your country, you don't really understand how terrible it is.”

Denis Shapovalov (Canadian world No 15)

“I don't agree with either [decision]. I think, first of all, if you have a pro competition, that everybody should be competing … if you have a tennis tournament that's supposed to have the best athletes in the world, it shouldn't matter where you're from, this and that, you know? So everybody should be competing.

“I also don't agree with the ATP to take out all the points. The most guys it's affecting are the guys in the top rankings.”

Lesia Tsurenko criticised players for their lack of support regarding the war in Ukraine. Getty

Benoit Paire (French world No 78)

“I would like to talk about Wimbledon. I would like to know if ATP defends more [its] players or Russia.

“I think it's a pity, because if we were to listen to all the players, players do not understand this decision - 99 per cent of players, they want to have points and to play the tournament as it was before. So I want to know if ATP wants to defend players or Russia?”

Andrey Rublev (Russian world No 7)

“The reasons they [Wimbledon] gave us had no sense, they were illogical. What is happening now is complete discrimination against us.

“Banning Russian or Belarusian players … will not change anything. To give all the prize money to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that would do something.

“Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory.”

Updated: May 25, 2022, 4:39 PM
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