ATP's staggering move against Wimbledon after Russia ban

Daniil Medvedev is among a number of Russian and Belarusian players that are banned from competing at Wimbledon in 2022. Pic: Getty
Daniil Medvedev is among a number of Russian and Belarusian players that are banned from competing at Wimbledon in 2022. Pic: Getty

Wimbledon could effectively be reduced to a high-profile exhibition event amid reports the top male players in the world are calling for rankings points to be withdrawn from the grand slam in response to the controversial Russia ban.

Wimbledon officials insist they were left with no other viable choice but to ban players from Russia and Belarus from competing at this year's grand slam tournament.

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The All England Club (AELTC), which runs the grass-court grand slam, announced the move last month in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The hugely divisive move sparkled backlash across the tennis world, with players past and present, as well as the governing bodies of men's and women's tennis - the ATP and WTA respectively - speaking out against the bans.

The WTA last month warned there could be repercussions to the ban, with the ATP initially stopping short of supporting the idea of stripping rankings points.

As the grand slam tournaments are autonomous, it's essentially the only move the governing bodies can make against Wimbledon, but one that would leave the iconic tournament as a glorified exhibition event - albeit with a whopping £35 million ($AUD62 million) in prize money.

Telegraph Sport reports that the world’s leading male players are leading a push for rankings points to be scrapped at Wimbledon, in a move that could be ratified by the ATP board within the next 48 hours.

Wimbledon chiefs had expected British star Murray to back them over the Russia ban, but the three-time major winner remained noncommittal when asked about it at the recent Madrid Open.

“I feel for everyone,” Murray told reporters at the time. “I feel for the players that can’t play, and I dn’t support one side or the other.”

With entry lists for Wimbledon closing six weeks before the start of tournaments, an outcome needs to be reached before next week, with the WTA understood to be leaning towards the same position as the ATP.

Wimbledon chiefs insist they were left with "no viable alternative" other than to issue bans so as to avoid "being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime".

It means stars such as US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka cannot play at the grass-court tournament, which starts in late June.

Russian and Belarusian players such as Daniil Medvedev and Victoria Azarenka (pictured) are banned from playing in the 2022 Wimbledon grand slam tournament. Pic: Getty
Russian and Belarusian players such as Daniil Medvedev and Victoria Azarenka (pictured) are banned from playing in the 2022 Wimbledon grand slam tournament. Pic: Getty

Wimbledon chiefs defend Russia ban

AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said the decision was made after careful consideration, taking into account UK government guidance for sporting bodies with the aim of limiting Russia's influence.

"These are in effect two options — declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific written declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players," he said at Wimbledon's annual media briefing.

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

Belarusian stars Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, pictured here in Germany.
Belarusian stars Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka won't be allowed to play at Wimbledon. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)

"Second, we have a duty to ensure no actions we take should put players or their families at risk.

"We understand and deeply regret the impact this decision will have on every individual affected and so many innocent people are suffering as a result of this terrible war.

"But... we believe we have made the most responsible decision possible in the circumstances and that, within the framework of the government's position, there is no viable alternative to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation."

with agencies

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