May 20, 2022 - Sports

Tennis tours penalize Wimbledon for banning Russian, Belarusian players

Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

The men’s and women’s tennis tours have stripped Wimbledon, one of tennis' four Grand Slams, of ranking points after tournament organizers banned Russian and Belarusian players following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the tours announced on Friday.

Why it matters: The tours' decision could lead to countermeasures, including the Grand Slams aligning to make more decisions independently of the ATP or WTA, the New York Times writes.

  • Without ranking points, Wimbledon will be essentially played as an exhibition. The other lead-in events in Great Britain were not stripped of ranking points, although the WTA placed three tournaments on probation.

The big picture: Wimbledon, the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, hasn't barred athletes from specific countries since the aftermath of World War II.

  • It is currently the only Grand Slam to ban Russians and Belarusians.

What they're saying: The All England Club said in a statement that it stands by the ban, citing the government's decision to limit Russia's global influence in the country.

  • "In addition, we remain unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime," the statement said, saying the country's state media has "an acknowledged history of using sporting success to support a triumphant narrative to the Russian people."
  • "We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on Tour."

Former Ukrainian tennis player Sergiy Stakhovsky also said on Twitter that the ATP's decision made it a "shameful day in tennis.”

  • "Never would expect that anyone can stand on the side of invaders and murderers… but it seems to me that even my fellow players feel sorry for invaders and collaborants from rus/blr," he added.

The other side: After the war began in February, Russia and Belarus were barred from team events. Some called for a full ban, while others argued that Russian and Belarusian athletes — some of whom have spoken out against the war — shouldn't be punished.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a statement issued by Wimbledon on Friday.

Go deeper