Wimbledon: All England Club chairman bemoans ranking points decision with 'no viable alternative' to Russia ban

·3-min read

The ATP and WTA decision to strip Wimbledon of rankings points due to the banning of Russian and Belarusian players was "very disappointing", given there was "no viable alternative".

That was the message from the All England Club's chairman Ian Hewitt in an interview with ESPN ahead of the third major of the year starting on Monday.

Numerous sporting and financial sanctions have been imposed on Russia for their ongoing invasion of neighbouring Ukraine, with Saint Petersburg stripped of the right to host the Champions League final and Russia removed from Qatar World Cup qualifying.

The All England Club followed suit by confirming Russian and Belarusian athletes would not be permitted to play at this year's championships, but the WTA and ATP responded by stripping the major of its ranking points.

Wimbledon's organisers stuck with their decision, questioning the punishment from those governing bodies, and Hewitt says the ban was justified for reasons outside the sport.

"One was a route to consider having personal declarations from players and, frankly, we did not think that was the right approach for a tournament of our kind," Hewitt said.

"We were not willing to put in jeopardy any safety of players, and we think that that route would have involved implications for players' safety or safety of their families, which really left no other viable alternative.

"But also, it was very important to us that Wimbledon, given the profile that we have, should not be used in any way by the propaganda machine which we know the Russian government employs in relation to its own people and how their position in the world is presented, and that would be.

"We just would not countenance Wimbledon success or participation in Wimbledon being misused in that way.

"So as a result of the combination of reasons, we were left with no viable alternative other than to decline entries; we hugely regret the impact on the individual players affected.

"But we also hugely regret the impact on so many innocent people, which the tragic situation in Ukraine has caused."

The punishment of Russian and Belarusian stars meant world number one Daniil Medvedev will not feature at the grass-court major, and neither will Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth in the world.

Women's world number six Aryna Sabalenka was another to miss out, alongside 13th-ranked Daria Kasatkina and 20th-ranked Victoria Azarenka, but Hewitt stands by the call.

"In relation to the decision of the ATP and WTA to remove ranking points, yes, we are very disappointed with that, we believe it is a disproportionate approach and, frankly, we believe it is more damaging to the interests of a large majority of players, and we regret that decision of the ATP and WTA," he added.

"We respect that opinions do differ, but we would have hoped that there would have been a different way of tackling that in the interests of the players.

"But as regards our decision, we certainly stand by our decision, and I'd say now our primary focus is to get on with the championships and prove that we are really a championship that is the pinnacle of the sport."

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