'Should be ashamed': Tennis world fumes over Wimbledon 'disgrace'

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Victoria Azarenka and Daniil Medvedev, pictured here at Wimbledon.
Victoria Azarenka and Daniil Medvedev are banned from Wimbledon. Image: Getty

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has led the condemnation of Wimbledon's decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus.

The All England Club (AELTC) made the shock announcement on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian players won't be allowed to play the grass-court major in June because of Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

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It marks first time players have been banned on grounds of their nationality since immediately after World War II when German and Japanese players were excluded.

Russian men's World No.2 Daniil Medvedev and No.8 Andrey Rublev will be banned, as will women's World No.4 Aryna Sabalenka and No.18 Victoria Azarenka (from Belarus).

The AELTC said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to "limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible."

"We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime," AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said in the statement.

However the decision has been slammed by both the ATP and WTA tours.

The ATP, which runs men's tennis, said the "unilateral decision" to exclude players was "unfair" and could potentially set a damaging precedent for the game.

"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings," the ATP said.

"Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our board and member councils."

The Women's Tennis Association said it was "very disappointed" with the decision and was now "evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions".

"Individual athletes should not be penalised or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries," the WTA said.

"Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified."

Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, pictured here at the Davis Cup.
Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are banned from Wimbledon. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Martina Navratilova slams Wimbledon decision

Navratilova, a Czech-born American whose wife is Russian, also condemned the decision.

The tennis legend, who won Wimbledon a record nine times between 1978 and 1990, called the move "the wrong decision".

"Exclusion like this, through no fault of these players, is not the way to go," she told LBC Radio.

"Tennis is such a democratic sport it is difficult when you see politics destroy it. On the women's side practically 10% of the field is not allowed to play.

"This decision was made in a vacuum by the All England Club.

"I understand their predicament but I just don't think they're seeing the big picture in a more global way. But I am devastated by the decision, quite frankly."

Martina Navratilova, pictured here at the WTA Finals in Mexico in 2021.
Martina Navratilova at the WTA Finals in Mexico in 2021. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images for WTA)

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the ban was "unacceptable".

"Given that Russia is a strong tennis country the competitions (which take this decision) will suffer from this," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

"To make sports people hostages of political intrigue is unacceptable. I hope the players won't lose their fitness."

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told Sport Express that there was nothing it could do.

"I think this decision is wrong but there is nothing we can change," Tarpischev said.

"The (Russian) Tennis Federation has already done everything it could."

Fans and pundits were also left fuming, with many labelling the move "disgraceful".

with agencies

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