Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players is a ‘mistake’, John McEnroe insists

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John McEnroe won Wimbledon three times in the 1980s  (Getty Images)
John McEnroe won Wimbledon three times in the 1980s (Getty Images)

Tennis great John McEnroe said Wimbledon was wrong to ban Russian and Belarusian players after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine but wished the sport’s governing bodies had not retaliated by stripping the Grand Slam of ranking points.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which organises the grasscourt major, decided to ban players from the two countries for this year’s championships due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’.

Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

The AELTC decision was described as ‘discriminatory’ by the men’s ATP and the women’s WTA and in response they have removed the ranking points for next month’s tournament.

Banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships was the only viable option under the guidance provided by the British government, the AELTC said last month.

McEnroe, who claimed three of his seven Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon, said there was no winner in the tussle.

“It was a mistake [to ban Russian and Belarusian players]. I know that it’s a very horrible, tricky, terrible situation obviously in Ukraine,” the 63-year-old told Reuters.

“And no one else has made that decision. I think there was something with the government? I don’t know exactly. I wish that wasn’t what they did. And I wish the ATP and the WTA didn’t decide it, say right now no points.

“It’s like a lose-lose right now. Tennis players, we are like a fraternity. We travel the world. And even if we speak different languages, there’s a connection. And in a small way, it’s like a family, and we need to support each other.

“It’s difficult to see like some of our best players not playing because of something they have nothing to do with. So I hope it is resolved. I don’t know, but it’s a bad situation.”

The Wimbledon ban rules out Russia’s men’s world No 2 and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev from competing at the 27 June-10 July tournament.

Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka, ranked seventh, and former world No 1 and twice major winner Victoria Azarenka will also miss out.

Ranking points determine a player’s ability to enter tennis events and receive seedings, so stripping them from Wimbledon effectively reduces the event to an exhibition tournament. Players will also be unable to defend the points they earned last year at Wimbledon and will drop down the rankings.

Japan’s four-time major champion Naomi Osaka said last week that she was “not 100 per cent sure” of playing at Wimbledon without the ranking points.

“I see all players going to Wimbledon, but that depends on the individual,” Eurosport tennis pundit McEnroe added.

“The fact that there’s no points, I disagree with that, but I don’t think that’s going to stop people, the players from going to Wimbledon.

“We’ll know in a few weeks, but I would think all the top players that believe they can do well there are going to still play.”


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