“I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon” – Djokovic on the ban of Russian & Belarusian players
Djokovic says the result of politics interfering with sports is not good as Navratilova and Millman also speak out against the Wimbledon ban
On Wednesday, the All England Lawn Tennis Club broke ranks with the rest of tennis’ governing bodies and tournaments to announce that players from Russia and Belarus would not be allowed to participate at Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tournament on the tennis calendar.
The ban impacts several high-profile players such as men’s world No 2 Daniil Medvedev and world No 8 Andrey Rublev as well as women’s world No 4 Aryna Sabalenka, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka and former Roland- Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Speaking to the media in Belgrade after his hard-fought three-hour, 22-minute win over compatriot Laslo Djere in the second round of the Serbia Open on Wednesday, Djokovic said, “I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war. I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
Djokovic is the co-founder of the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) along with Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and has taken a vocal stand on issues affecting players in recent times, advocating for more money for players in early rounds of events and tournament organizers to be more open about their books and the money they make from events.
Navratilova and Millman also against Wimbledon ban
Nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, who defected from the authoritarian regime in erstwhile Czechoslovakia to the United States in the midst of her career, was another to speak out and say that she was not in favour of the ban.
“Exclusion like this, through no fault of these players, is not the way to go … I think it’s the wrong decision. Tennis is such a democratic sport. It is difficult when you see politics destroy it. And as much as I feel for the Ukrainian players and the Ukrainian people – it’s just horrific what’s going on – I think this is just going further than needed.“[The players] are on the wrong side of politics … Hopefully this is only a one-off and won’t escalate any further. This decision was made in a vacuum by the All England Club … I don’t think they are seeing the big picture in a more global way,” the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion said as quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.
Australian tennis player John Millman, ranked No 80 in the world, also shared his views on the topic, saying the interests of Ukraine would be better served if Wimbledon donated their profits towards those impacted by the crisis.
“I feel like Ukraine would be better served if Wimbledon donated their entire profit in support aid instead of banning Russian and Belarusian players,” Millman tweeted.
Millman posted a follow-up tweet in which he said, “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.”