Andy Murray has lashed out at critics who believe the lack of ranking points will reduce the aura surrounding Wimbledon this year, saying the tournament will 'never feel like an exhibition'.
Wimbledon has banned Russian and Belarussian players from entering this year, prompting the ATP and WTA tours to strip the grass-court major of ranking points.
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This has proven to be controversial on a number of levels, with mixed opinions on what the move means in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as concerns from a number of players about how it will impact the rankings.
Players will not have the opportunity to defend the points they earned at Wimbledon last year, meaning the likes of reigning champion Novak Djokovic stand to lose 2000 points - which in his case, could see him lose the world No.1 ranking.
Several players have already indicated they won't play Wimbledon if ranking points are not on offer, most notably Naomi Osaka.
Admitting she was 'motivated by seeing my rank go up' earlier in the week, Osaka was labelled a 'brat' by longtime antagonist Piers Morgan, and criticised more subtly by Murray.
The Scottish fan favourite said Wimbledon boasted a cachet that no other event on the tour could match - with points or without.
“I’d hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court Wimbledon in a few weeks’ time wouldn’t know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a 3rd round match,” Murray wrote on Twitter.
“But I guarantee they will remember who wins. Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition.”
I follow golf very closely and have no idea how many ranking points the winner of the @TheMasters gets.
Me and my friends love football and non of us know or care how many ranking points a team gets for winning the @FIFAWorldCup
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) May 25, 2022
But I could tell you exactly who won the World Cup and the Masters. I’d hazard a guess that most people watching on centre court @Wimbledon in a few weeks time wouldn’t know or care about how many ranking points a player gets for winning a 3rd round match🤷♂️
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) May 25, 2022
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Nevertheless, even Murray wasn't able to bring the tennis world to a point of consensus.
American former star Mardy Fish popped up in the replies to Murray's post, suggesting that while it might be true that many fans don't closely follow the rankings, they are immensely important.
Murray acknowledged that point, but argued that for himself, points were not the 'be all and end all'.
"I’d rather play for points however it’s not the be all and end all," he responded.
“Do you think the top golfers would still play TheMasters if there was no points? Would Mito Pereira rather have won the PGA championship and earned no points or finished 3rd and got however many ranking points he got?
“I could be wrong but I don’t think any tennis player serving for a Slam title, any footballer taking a penalty in a World Cup shootout, or any golfer teeing off on the 18th hole of a major was thinking about ranking points.
“What’s making them nervous in my opinion is the possibility of winning a historic/prestigious event in the sport they love and have trained most of their life for not the thought of ranking points.
"I think the player field at Wimbledon will reflect this.”
Osaka has already declared she is unlikely to play, while Aussie contender Chris O'Connell has also decided to skip the grasscourt tournament.
O'Connell, who is currently ranked outside the top 100, says he will target several smaller events instead in a bid to work his way up the leaderboard.
Fellow Aussie star John Millman lashed out at the decision to strip ranking points from Wimbledon, saying he took issue with 'unilateral' decision making and discussing how he opposed all recent conflicts, including those in Israel and in the past in Iraq.
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