A neighbouring tennis club has criticised the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in this year’s Wimbledon.
Director of Kingston Riverside Tennis Club Samir Taktak condemned the ruling that has stopped the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka competing at SW19 this year.
This policy was intended as a sanction for Russia and Belarus’ involvement in the war in Ukraine.
Taktak said: “In my view this sort of behaviour is an absolute disgrace to the game and sports neutrality in general.
“It seems like we have lost our moral compass when we start dictating how sports personalities and players should think.
“We seem to dictate that players need to accept our narrative or be punished for thinking differently – this is not a democracy but autocracy.
“Sports should be neutral and no citizen should be punished for the actions of their government regardless of whether you think such actions are justified or otherwise.
“Banning Russian players from tennis does not punish their government.”
In coming to this decision, the AELTC considered the option of allowing Russian and Belarusian players to compete if they provided a written declaration against their government’s actions.
It was eventually decided that this approach would not be appropriate, given the personal risk it could pose to the players themselves.
AELTC’s chairman Ian Hewitt said: “We believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone.
“Government, industry, sport, and creative institutions are all playing their part in efforts to limit Russia’s global influence including any benefit from trade, cultural or sporting shows of strength.
“As part of that response, the UK Government has set out directional guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK, with the specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence.
“We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible in the circumstances, and there is no viable alternative within the framework of the Government’s position to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.”
Due to the ban, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have announced there will be no ranking points on offer at Wimbledon this year.
That means players’ official rankings won’t be affected by their performance at Wimbledon, effectively reducing England’s flagship tennis tournament to an exhibition.
The ATP and WTA insist that their hands were forced.
A statement from the WTA said: “The stance we are taking is about protecting the equal opportunities that WTA players should have to compete as individuals.
“If we do not take this stance, then we abandon our fundamental principle and allow the WTA to become an example to support discrimination based on nationality at other events and in other regions around the world.”
A statement from the ATP added: “The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour.
“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.”
This discussion is likely to continue long after the Championships begin on 27 June, but Taktak is clear that his mind won’t be changed.