Novak Djokovic ripped by Russian champion over Wimbledon comments

Novak Djokovic, pictured here speaking to the media during a press conference at the Serbia Open.
Novak Djokovic speaks to the media during a press conference at the Serbia Open. (Photo by Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images)

Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov has taken aim at Novak Djokovic, calling out the World No.1 tennis star for his recent comments about Wimbledon.

Djokovic said it was "crazy" that Wimbledon officials had banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing at the grass-court major this year due to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

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“I will always be the first one to condemn war, as a child of war I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves, us in Serbia we know what was happening here in 1999,” Djokovic told reporters at the Serbia Open last week.

“Ordinary people always suffer, we’ve had lots of wars in the Balkans.

"That being said I cannot support the Wimbledon decision.

“It’s not the athletes fault – when politics interferes with sport it usually doesn’t turn out well – I personally believe there’s no need to suspend Russian players.”

But according to Kasparov, who has been vocal in his opposition of the war, Djokovic should have used his platform to condemn Putin and Russia.

“Russia may play by ranking, but they kill by nationality,” the chess grandmaster wrote in response to Djokovic's comments, describing them as "inappropriate".

“Russian athletes who do not condemn Putin’s war of extermination in Ukraine are supporting it with silence.

“And a Serb failing to do so is especially inappropriate considering history.”

Garry Kasparov, pictured here playing simultaneous chess games at the Web Summit in Lisbon in 2021.
Garry Kasparov plays simultaneous chess games at the Web Summit in Lisbon in 2021. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA/AFP via Getty Images)

Wimbledon officials defend controversial ban

All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said Wimbledon was left with no viable alternative but to ban Russian and Belarusian players.

Expanding on last week's announcement, Hewitt stressed the role of the UK Government.

"The UK Government has set out directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with specific aim of limiting Russia's influence," he said at the All England Club's spring briefing.

"We have considered at length the options available. These are in effect two options: declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players.

"We considered a wide variety of factors. After lengthy and careful consideration, we came to two firm conclusions.

"First, even if we were to accept entries (from Russian and Belarusian players) with written declarations, we would risk their success or participation being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which we could not accept.

"Second, we have a duty to ensure no actions should put players or their families at risk. We understand and deeply regret the impact this will have on all the people affected.

"We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible. We believe (given Government guidance) there is no viable alternative in this truly exceptional and tragic situation."

Ian Hewitt and Sally Bolton, pictured here speaking to the media at The All England Club.
Ian Hewitt and Sally Bolton speak to the media at The All England Club. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Russian star Andrey Rublev called the decision "complete discrimination", but Wimbledon refuted that accusation.

"We hope in time they can understand our desire to achieve a responsible outcome," said Hewitt.

"It is not discrimination in the form that is being said."

Meanwhile, Djokovic has been given the green light to defend his Wimbledon title despite his ongoing refusal to get vaccinated.

Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton said “whilst, of course, it is encouraged” that all players get vaccinated, “it will not be a condition of entry to compete”.

Djokovic missed the Australian Open in January after being deported from the country, before also missing Masters 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami.

He will be allowed to play the French Open and recently played the Monte Carlo Masters and Serbia Open in preparation.

with agencies

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