Wimbledon chief whines about ‘disproportionate’ punishment
The chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has claimed Wimbledon was left with "no other viable" alternative than to ban Russian players from the tournament whilst criticizing the ATP and WTA tours for stripping the event of rankings points.
The AELTC handed down the ban in April, but the ATP and WTA, backed by players such as Novak Djokovic, found it discriminatory and reacted with their own punishment.
Talking to ESPN as the British Grand Slam kicked off on Monday, AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt claimed that the decision made by the AELTC went "beyond the interests of tennis alone" and was "influenced by the directive guidance" that the UK government gave the tournament.
Hewitt said it would have been "wrong" to defy the British authorities and that the decision was motivated by a wish to prevent Wimbledon from promoting Russia's 'political agenda'.
Towing the line left Wimbledon with two options, one of which was to consider "having personal declarations from players [against the Russian government]" which Wimbledon didn't think "was the right approach for a tournament of our kind."
"We were not willing to put in jeopardy any safety of players, and we think that that route would have involved implications for players' safety or safety of their families, which really left no other viable alternative," Hewitt protested on the recommendation made by UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
Hewitt also remarked that as a result of a "combination of reasons," Wimbledon bosses were left with no viable alternative other than to decline Russian entries, which led it to "hugely regret the impact on the individual players affected" such as world number one Daniil Medvedev.
Hewitt addressed the ATP and WTA's moves to strip Wimbledon of ranking points, stating: "We believe it is a disproportionate approach and frankly we believe it is more damaging to the interests of a large majority of players, and we regret that decision of the ATP and WTA."
Hewitt concluded by saying Wimbledon stands by the ban despite its consequences, and will now focus on getting on with its tournament while proving that it is "really a championship that is the pinnacle of the sport."
Though Wimbledon cannot provide ranking points, record prize money of $50 million is on offer this year with the women's and men's champions taking home equal pay of £2 million ($2.5 million) each.