Novak Djokovic critical of Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian player
- The gaze of the tennis world has already turned to Wimbledon for the third grand slam of the year.
- The tournament gets underway today, Monday wrapped with controversies after organizers banned Russian and Belarusian players.
- Serena Williams is scheduled to make a return to grand slam tennis after a year-long absence from the sport.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia has reiterated his opposition to Wimbledon’s blanket ban of players from Russia and Belarus before he attempts to win a seventh men’s singles title in London.
Wimbledon starts today but there will be no Russians or Belarusians in the field after organizers took the contentious move to ban them in response to the war in Ukraine.
Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, ranked world numbers one and eight, respectively, are among the Russian players who have been denied entry into the tournament.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) decision has been welcomed by Ukrainians whose country remains under attack by Russian forces with the assistance of Belarus, but Djokovic is against the move.
“What I can say is that as a child of a war, several wars actually during the Nineties, I know what it feels like being in the position,” said Djokovic.
“But on the other hand, I can’t say I fully agree to ban Russian tennis players or Belarusian tennis players from competing indefinitely.
“I just don’t see how they have contributed to anything that is really happening. “I mean, I don’t feel it’s fair.
“They would accept the compromise they’ve actually had as a situation or circumstances with the Olympic Games to play under a neutral flag.
“It’s really hard to say what is right, what is wrong.
Wimbledon has been stripped of its rankings points by the Association of Tennis Professionals, the Women’s Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation following the AELTC’s decision.
“But in my heart, as an athlete putting myself in a position where someone would ban me from playing because of these circumstances, and I have not contributed to that, I wouldn’t think that’s fair.”
It means several players face dropping in the world rankings as they will be unable to gain or defend the significant ranking points a Grand Slam offers.
World number three Djokovic will lose the maximum 2,000 points he earned for winning Wimbledon last year.
But the Serbian, who is set to meet South Korea’s Kwon Soon-woo in the opening round today, insists he is unfazed by the loss of points.
“It would probably affect players other than myself to be honest,” said Djokovic.
“I don’t want to say that ranking points are not important for me – of course, they are – but not as they were until recently.
Djokovic, a 20-time Grand Slam champion, will be the favorite to clinch the men’s singles crown having won it in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019 and 2021.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal is halfway to completing a calendar Grand Slam – a feat that has not been achieved since Rod Laver did so in 1968 – after winning the Australian Open and the French Open.
Other contenders include Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, and Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz who have all won grass-court warm-up events.
Belarus’ world number six Aryna Sabalenka, who reached the semi-finals last year, is the highest-ranked women’s player who will miss the tournament due to AELTC’s ban.
There will also be no defending champion following Australian Ashleigh Barty’s shock retirement earlier this year.
World number one Iga Świątek of Poland has yet to go beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon but will be the strong favorite having put together a 35-match winning streak, including securing the French Open title.
Home hopes will rest on the shoulders of reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who produced an impressive run in last year’s tournament.
Czech star Karolína Plíšková will be determined to go one better this year after losing to Barty in the final and is among a number of title challengers, including formers winners Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic, Simona Halep of Romania, and Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain.
Seven-time champion Serena Williams of the United States has accepted a wildcard and is poised to make her first Grand Slam appearance since Wimbledon 12 months ago.
The 40-year-old, who is back from injury, warmed up for the event by playing doubles with Tunisian Ons Jabeur in Eastbourne.