Men’s tennis bosses are reportedly poised to retaliate against the UK grass court showpiece
Reports from the UK indicate that the ATP is set to strip Wimbledon of its rankings points after imposing a ban on Russian and Belarusian players – a step which could be mirrored by the women’s WTA.
The move would significantly escalate the row which erupted after Wimbledon organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced on April 20 that Russian and Belarusian stars would not be welcome at this year’s edition of the Grand Slam because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Wimbledon is already an outlier in the tennis world because of its anti-Russian sanctions, but what would the potentially punitive response from the ATP mean for the tournament?
We look at some of the key questions surrounding the issue.
Why might the ATP act against Wimbledon?
By announcing its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, Wimbledon put itself at odds with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA).
All three organizations have said that Russian and Belarusian players should continue to compete at tournaments, but under a neutral status.
Wimbledon officials have defended their stance by asserting that it is in line with UK government policy, and that the likes of Russian men’s star Daniil Medvedev appearing at SW19 this summer would somehow be a victory for the
“propaganda machine of the Russian regime.”
Both the ATP and WTA have issued statements condemning Wimbledon’s position, suggesting it was discriminatory and contrary to their principles.
The two organizations have also suggested it violates the agreements they have in place with Wimbledon, although officials at the London tournament have denied that is the case.
Most recently, after meetings among the ATP hierarchy and strong sentiment among members of the Player Council, the ATP board and chief executive Andrea Gaudenzi are said to have “little choice” but to act against Wimbledon. What action will the ATP take?
The Telegraph, the ATP is preparing to strip Wimbledon of rankings points for this year’s tournament. The same outlet reports that the WTA is “leaning towards” the same step.
That means that any players appearing at Wimbledon would not receive points which go towards their official ATP or WTA world ratings.
The points system also has consequences for the race to the end-of-year ATP and WTA Finals, both of which are extremely lucrative.
If Wimbledon were stripped of rankings points, consequently Russian and Belarusian players would not see their ratings suffer by not being allowed to play.
Victory in the men’s singles at a Grand Slam such as Wimbledon affords ATP stars 2,000 points, while the runner-up claims 1,200 points.
The WTA tour gives the same total to Grand Slam singles winners, but 1,300 points for runners-up.
Why would losing rankings points be a blow for Wimbledon?
As a private members’ club, the All England Club will argue it can invite whomever it chooses and is not beholden to the likes of the ATP or WTA.
However, stripping The Championships of rankings points would be a powerful statement that the ATP and WTA tours could impose as a response.
Removing points would effectively turn Wimbledon into a glorified exhibition tournament, although one with a massive prize fund which last year totaled £35 million ($43 million).
Considering its prestige and the riches on offer, Wimbledon would undoubtedly still attract tennis’ top stars even without rankings points to play for, but its reputation would take a hit.
Leading players such as
Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have already criticized the ban on Russians and Belarusians, while even British two-time Wimbledon winner Andy Murray, who was more restrained in his assessment, said he is “not supportive.”
Belarusian double Grand Slam winner
Victoria Azarenka, among those to be barred from the event, was openly hostile and called on the WTA to take punitive measures against Wimbledon in response.
With the French Open set to go ahead with Russian and Belarusian players later in May, Wimbledon thus far finds itself isolated in the tennis community.
It would be an extreme step, but if some players feel strongly enough about the mistreatment of their Russian and Belarusian peers, they could choose to boycott Wimbledon in solidarity.
Whatever the case, the noise surrounding the scandal has already led to considerable criticism of Wimbledon chiefs. How else could the ATP’s decision impact other UK events?
Wimbledon was joined in its sanctions by the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), meaning Russian and Belarusian players will be prohibited from competing at any tournaments on British shores this summer.
That impacts the likes of the traditional pre-Wimbledon ATP event at the Queen’s Club in London. The ATP also has an event planned in Eastbourne, while the WTA is hosting tournaments at Eastbourne, Birmingham and Nottingham before the action at SW19 gets underway.
All could reportedly be hit with fines for their refusal to allow entry to Russian and Belarusian players, as well as the removal of rankings points – just like Wimbledon.
According to the
Daily Mail, players could seek to compete at other grass court events in Europe rather than compete in the UK in preparation for Wimbledon, which starts on June 22 and runs until July 10.
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