Djokovic criticises 'crazy' Wimbledon ban on Russians, Belarusians, Latest Tennis News - The New Paper

Djokovic criticises 'crazy' Wimbledon ban on Russians, Belarusians

BELGRADE (AFP) - Novak Djokovic hit out at the "crazy" decision by Wimbledon on Wednesday (April 20) to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year's tournament over the invasion of Ukraine.

The world No. 1 said he disagreed with war, but said banning athletes was unfair.

"I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war," he said at the ATP event in Belgrade. "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, I think it is crazy.

"The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good."

Russian men's world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian female world No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka - a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year - are the leading players affected by the ban.

Others hit by the ban are Russia's Andrey Rublev, who is eighth in the ATP rankings, while his compatriot Karen Khachanov is in 26th place.

Russian world No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus are two of the other top female players who will miss the grass-court Grand Slam.

The Lawn Tennis Association has also banned Russian or Belarusian players from competing in other British grass-court tournaments, including Wimbledon warm-up events at Queen's Club and Eastbourne.

Players from Russia and Belarus have been able to compete on the ATP and WTA tours since the war in Ukraine started, but they were not allowed to use their national flags. The ITF had already banned both countries' teams from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, said it was acting to "limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible".

But the ATP and WTA organisers have also criticised the ban, saying it was "unfair" and "very disappointing".

Medvedev is Djokovic's closest rival in the world rankings and denied the 34-year-old a calendar Grand Slam in last year's US Open final.

Djokovic is playing in just his third tournament of the season in the Serbian capital after being deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open over his Covid-19 vaccination status.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion survived a scare to beat Laslo Djere 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-4) in the second round on Wednesday.

novak djokovicWimbledonUkraineRussia