Tennis chiefs angry at $1 million fallout after Wimbledon 'disgrace'

Pictured right is Russian tennis star Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic on the left.
Russian Daniil Medvedev (R) was one of a number of stars banned from competing at Wimbledon in 2022, where Novak Djokovic won his 21st major. Pic: Getty

British tennis chiefs have expressed their disappointment at being fined $1 million in response to a controversial ban on Russian and Belarusian players this year, which was widely condemned across the tennis world and labelled a "disgrace" by many fans. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) issued the fine to the the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in response to their contentious move.

The LTA had come under pressure from the British government to impose a ban in response to the war in Ukraine, with Russian and Belarusian players eventually barred from all five ATP tournaments staged by the LTA, including the longstanding Queen's Club event in London. The All England Club, which organises Wimbledon, also banned them from competing at this year's grand slam.

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It marked the first time players had been banned on grounds of their nationality since immediately after World War II when German and Japanese players were excluded. Both the ATP and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in protest at a ban labelled "crazy" by 21-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic, who won this year's tournament.

The WTA had also previously fined British tennis authorities a total of $1 million, split between a $750,000 punishment for the LTA and a $250,000 penalty for the All England Club. It is also understood the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the ATP Tour if it repeats the ban on players based on their nationality.

However, the LTA has fired back at the ATP and it's $1 million fine, accusing the governing body of men's tennis of a "lack of empathy" around the situation in Ukraine. In a statement, the LTA says it's deeply disappointed" with the outcome.

British tennis body criticises ATP sanction

"The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government's response to that invasion," the LTA statement said. "The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules - with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced."

The statement added: "We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA's decision and sanction."

The ATP - who received support from International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach - said they had no intention of changing course. Bach was also critical of the British government for politicising the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in various sports, including tennis.

Seen here, IOC president Thomas Bach speaking at a conference.
IOC president Thomas Bach has been critical of the British government for politicising sport in response to the war in Ukraine. Pic: Getty

An ATP spokesperson said: "We stand by our original position on this matter, that unilateral decision-making by members of the ATP Tour threatens our ability to operate as a global sport. We believe that the measures taken protect the long-term future of our game and its commitment to merit-based participation, without discrimination, for individual athletes."

Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter and specifically, the political neutrality that underpins what the IOC represents.

"Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events," Bach said after an IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. "The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference."

"To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports."

Michelle Donelan, the British government's Culture Secretary, urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their punishments.

"We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries," she said. "Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result."

with agencies

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