While most sports around the world have taken a harsh stance against Russian and Belarusian athletes after their governments embarked on a brutal invasion of Ukraine, tennis chiefs have taken the alternative stance and have pushed the UK Grand Slam event for its decision.
Wimbledon organisers have expressed “deep disappointment” after this summer’s championships, while the organisers also stressed they stood by the call, made in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, to impose the ban for SW19 this year, calling it “the only viable decision”.
A Wimbledon statement read: “We appreciate that opinions differ in relation to our decision to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to the championships this year and we deeply regret the impact of this decision on the individuals affected.
“However, given the position taken by the UK Government to limit Russia’s global influence, which removed automatic entry by ranking, and the widespread response of Government, industry, sport and creative institutions, we remain of the view that we have made the only viable decision for Wimbledon as a globally renowned sporting event and British institution, and we stand by the decision we have made.
“We…wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF (International Tennis Federation) in removing ranking points for the championships.
“We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on tour.
“We are considering our options, and we are reserving our position at this stage. We are also in discussion with our Grand Slam colleagues.”
The ATP had earlier said Wimbledon’s stance set “a damaging precedent”.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” it said in a statement.
“The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP ranking system.
“It is also inconsistent with our rankings agreement. Absent a change in circumstances, it is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022.
“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour.
“Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries.”
The ATP said it did not “underestimate the difficult decisions” Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association had faced in responding to UK Government guidance, but questioned Wimbledon’s claim there was no other decision to be made.
The statement added: “We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an acceptable outcome for all concerned.”
Ranking points will remain at ATP Tour events at Queen’s (ATP 500), Eastbourne (ATP 250) and ATP Challenger events in the UK this summer.
The WTA soon followed suit by announcing it too was removing ranking points from Wimbledon, with chairman Steve Simon saying: “The recent decisions made by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to ban athletes from competing in the upcoming UK grass-court events violate that fundamental principle, which is clearly embodied in the WTA rules, the Grand Slam rules and the agreement the WTA has with the Grand Slams.
“As a result of the AELTC’s position that it will not honour its obligation to use the WTA rankings for entry into Wimbledon and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
“In addition, each of the WTA-sanctioned events (Nottingham, Birmingham, and Eastbourne) will be penalised and their WTA tournament sanctions will be placed on probation.”
The ITF also confirmed it would not grant ranking points to Wimbledon for juniors and wheelchair events.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries urged the ATP, WTA and ITF to consider their decisions.
She said: “The international sporting community rightly moved quickly and came together to condemn (Vladimir) Putin’s illegal and barbaric actions in Ukraine.
“Given the importance of sport and cultural bodies in making the Russian Government an international pariah, we stand squarely behind the decision that Wimbledon and the LTA have taken to stand up for what is right.
“We deeply regret today’s decision and urge the ATP, WTA and the ITF to consider their stance on ranking points at the Championships.
“It does not send the right message to either Putin or the people of Ukraine.”