Ex-number one tennis star speaks out against Wimbledon Russians ban
Former world tennis number one Andy Murray has joined generational rivals Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in blasting Wimbledon's ban on Russian players this summer.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced its decision a fortnight ago, which has been made as a response to Russia's military operation in Ukraine.
Alongside the ATP men's tour, big names such as Djokovic and Billie Jean King immediately voiced opposition to the landmark ruling. And on the eve of the Madrid Open, Nadal and Murray have followed suit when questioned on the topic by reporters, with Murray clearly stating that he is "not supportive" of the prohibition.
"I’m not supportive of players getting banned," the three-time grand slam winner began.
"My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they’re against the war and against the Russian regime," he continued, in a nod to a suggestion previously made by UK Sports minister Nigel Huddleston.
"I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families [as a result]," Murray, who doesn't think there is a "right answer", said.
"I’ve spoken to some of the Ukrainian players. I feel really bad for the players who aren’t allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them," Murray revealed.
"But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in.
"I feel for everyone, [I] feel for the players that can’t play, and I don’t support one side or the other," Murray concluded.
Murray's comments come after Nadal said he thought the ban was "very unfair [on] my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues".
"It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment," the Spaniard stressed, while also highlighting an unfair impact the ban could have on ranking points for challengers to Djokovic's number one spot such as Australian Open final rival Daniil Medvedev.
As outspoken as ever, Djokovic has arguably been the harshest critic of the ban on Russian players when following a similar line from the ATP, who disapproved of the AELTC's apparent "discrimination based on nationality".
Echoing Murray's remarks, Djokovic initially said he "cannot support the decision of Wimbledon" which he found "crazy".
"When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good," Djokovic continued, noting that he "will always condemn war" and "will never support" it due to being "a child of war" himself growing up in the Balkans in the 1990s.
Then asked about his comments on the eve of the Serbia Open final where he was beaten by another critic of the "completely discriminatory" ruling in world number eight Andrey Rublev, Djokovic insisted that he stood by what he said and that there was "no need for athletes to be banned"
"We have rules against discrimination in tennis. We play based on rankings, not nationality. I support the statements of ATP and PTPA," Djokovic underlined.
While Murray will face Dominic Thiem in the first round at the Madrid Open, Nadal and Djokovic are waiting to see who their opponents will be in the round of 32 on Tuesday.