Ukrainian tennis player calls out John Millman in ugly Wimbledon row

Marta Kostyuk and John Millman, pictured here on the tennis tours.
Marta Kostyuk has taken exception to John Millman's comments about Wimbledon. Image: Getty

Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk has taken exception to John Millman's comments regarding Wimbledon's ban on players from Russia and Belarus, calling on him to speak out against Vladimir Putin's regime instead.

Wimbledon officials made the staggering announcement on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to play the grass-court major in June due to Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

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That means some of the top players in the world will be banned from Wimbledon, including Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, and Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka.

The decision sparked widespread backlash in the tennis world, with Aussie veteran Millman among those to criticise the move.

"I feel like Ukraine would be better served if Wimbledon donated their entire profit in support aid instead of banning the Russian and Belarusian players," he tweeted.

However Ukrainian player Kostyuk, who has previously spoken out against Putin's regime, felt Millman missed his chance to do likewise.

"Ukraine needs peace and freedom that we are dying for right now. Not money," she replied to his tweet.

"Anyone who thinks that decision like this one is targeting players personally is pretty selfish.

"Players are great part of propaganda and big example to their fans. Silence is a betrayal."

Millman then clarified his position, writing: "Maybe I could have gotten my message across more clearly.

"I’m in total support of Ukraine and its people. I just feel like Wimbledon is doing this more for their own gain, for good optics rather than to actually help. I pray for your family."

To which Kostyuk replied: "As we can all see, Wimbledon definitely didn’t get any gain so far and is facing a lot of difficulties.

"Nothing personal, but I hope other tournaments will act the same. Unless players speak out. Thank you."

Kostyuk earlier wrote a statement addressing the 'tennis community', calling for more to be done against Russia.

"In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening," she wrote.

"The very silence of those who choose to remain that way right now is unbearable as it leads to the continuation of murder in our homeland.

"There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now."

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Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova were among the many to criticise Wimbledon's move, while the ATP and WTA were both scathing.

"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 men's governing body 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".

Belarusian stars Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, pictured here in Berlin.
Belarusian stars Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka are banned from Wimbledon. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)

"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," said the WTA.

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

Djokovic called the move "crazy", while Navratilova said "politics is ruining the sport".

The All England Club said it had to play its part in the efforts 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," chairman Ian Hewitt said in the statement.

with AAP

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