Djokovic comments on ‘crazy’ Wimbledon ban on Russian players
Novak Djokovic has described Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players as “crazy” as the Serb spoke out against the interference of politics in sport.
Wimbledon organizers confirmed on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian stars would not be invited to this year’s Grand Slam because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The decision means the likes of Russian world number two Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian women’s star Aryna Sabalenka – ranked number four in the world – are set to miss the grass court showpiece when it gets underway towards the end of June.
Responding to the news, Djokovic said he firmly opposed the step.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic was quoted as saying on the sidelines of the Serbia Open.
“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. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” the world number one added.
Wimbledon organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) justified the ban by claiming it would be “unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”
The statement added that the decision could be reversed “if circumstances change materially between now and June.”
However, Djokovic was part of a much broader backlash in tennis against the step by Wimbledon.
Men’s tour the ATP savaged the ban, saying it was “unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”
The women’s WTA tour was similarly critical, calling the decision “neither fair nor justified.”
The WTA and ATP have both allowed Russian and Belarusian players to continue to compete as neutrals at tour events in the wake of the Ukraine military offensive by Moscow.
Djokovic, 34, was himself subject to sanctions earlier this year when he was deported from Australia in an ugly row over his Covid vaccine status.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was continuing his comeback in his homeland, and battled back to beat countryman Laslo Djere in three sets in Belgrade on Wednesday.