Wimbledon’s Ban on Russian Athletes: An Embarrassing Disgrace

Andrey Rublev Wimbledon

Whether you’re a tennis fan or not, the likelihood is that you’ve heard of Wimbledon. Taking place in London, with the all-white rule for players glistening under the summer sun with a stunning Centre Court with tons of history, there’s no wonder it’s the biggest and most prestigious tournament in all of tennis.

In January this year we had the whole incident of world #1 Novak Djokovic being detained and deported from Australia, making worldwide news and embarrassing the sport, the Australian Open, and Australia itself. After such a mess, not many people would have expected Wimbledon to follow suit in disgracing itself. But that’s exactly what they’ve done, arguably to an even worse extent.

Wimbledon Bans Russian and Belarussian Players

As you probably already know, the organizers have announced that Russian and Belarusian players will be unable to compete in the event due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine to “limit Russian influence.” As you can imagine, tennis players and fans have spoken their minds just on how truly pathetic the decision is. Is Putin really going to stop invading Ukraine now he’s found out Medvedev can’t play Wimbledon?

Let’s start with the obvious. You’re banning players from playing an event they’ve fairly and rightfully gotten into including world #2 Daniil Medvedev, #8 Andrey Rublev, and last year’s Roland Garros finalist Anastasia Pavlychenkova, evidently some of the best players in the world. They aren’t being banned for any fault of their own. They’re being barred from playing because of the country they’re from, something they have no control over. It’s xenophobic, regardless of how Wimbledon wants to spin it. If any other sport or event was doing this to a certain nationality of players/teams, we all know it wouldn’t go down well–and it shouldn’t.

If we’re going down the politics route to justify it, then why weren’t American players banned when their country was invading the likes of Afghanistan and Iraq? Should we only care when the people suffering are white, blonde with blue eyes? That’s what it sounds like to me. Perhaps even funnier, Britain itself has a rich history of invading other countries, in fact there’s only 22 countries it hasn’t invaded. Instead of banning Russians and Belarusians from playing Wimbledon, why don’t we simply just move the event to a country which isn’t hypocritical as can be and makes for a fair event?

Do you want to know what makes this decision even more laughable? The fact that the WTA and ATP tours themselves have condemned the decision. The WTA has stated they’re “very disappointed” and that “individual athletes should not be penalised from competing due to the decisions made by the governments of their countries”. The ATP themselves have said “discrimination based on nationality constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon” and thankfully are investigating and looking further into the matter.

This is the same ATP Tour which refused to comment or even acknowledge how Novak Djokovic was treated in Australia earlier this year, so it’s good to see they’re finally getting their priorities straight and not hiding away when their players are being treated unfairly.

Speaking of Novak Djokovic, growing up in a war zone and knowing the “emotional trauma war leaves us,” even he didn’t support Wimbledon’s decision, saying, “It’s not the athletes’ fault” and that when “politics interferes with sports it usually doesn’t turn out well,” which we’ve clearly seen all over the world since the announcement has been made.

On the women’s side, you have Elina Svitolina agreeing with the decision demanding that the ATP, WTA, and ITF ask Russian and Belarusian players a few questions which would determine their stance on the matter. It’s awful to say the least. The top two Russians in the world–Medvedev and Rublev–have openly said “no war” and have called for peace, but that isn’t enough? If anything, it’s also dangerous and puts themselves, their families, and their friends at risk by demanding strong answers and statements. Players should never be put in a situation like this. If we’re thinking and caring about the mental and physical states of these players, it’s stupid to ask and expect anything more of them. Just let them do their job.

Just to pick out some responses from fans to the matter. One says it’s the need to “do something,” which you can understand given the severity of what’s going on, but as Australian John Millman says, “Ukraine would be better off served if Wimbledon donated their entire profit in support of aid instead of banning Russian and Belarusian players”. Safe to say he’s completely right, but knowing Wimbledon are very profit-orientated, we all know it will never happen. Like the fan also says, the bottom line is Wimbledon felt the need to do something and in return have done something which helps no one and hurts innocent people.

It’s obvious not only what I think, but what the ATP, WTA, fellow fans and even players think on the matter. It’s outright stupid, xenophobic, and disgusting to say the least. These men and women have trained their whole lives to play the biggest events in this sport and have dreamt of winning Wimbledon, yet their chances are being taken away by idiotic decision makers, due to circumstances not in their control at all.

Thankfully, there’s still time before Wimbledon so I really hope the event retracts their decision as it’s embarrassing for the event, country, and sport the way things currently are. If they don’t, then I would love to see players start to boycott the event and send a message in the strongest possible way they can because this just isn’t right.

The last thing I’ll say is, it’s 2022. Wimbledon needs to grow up and realize two wrongs don’t make a right. If they really cared about what was going on they could take a much better approach and not put the mental health of these players at even more risk when it’s evident some are already struggling. It’s selfish and ignorant.

I’m embarrassed to be a tennis fan and Brit right now.

Main Photo from Getty.