John McEnroe says Wimbledon was WRONG to ban Russian and Belarusian players

Tennis great John McEnroe said Wimbledon was wrong to ban Russian and Belarusian players after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine but wished the sport’s governing bodies had not retaliated by stripping the Grand Slam of ranking points.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which organizes the grass court major, decided to ban players from the two countries for this year’s championships due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a ‘special operation’.

Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

The AELTC decision was described as ‘discriminatory’ by the men’s ATP and the women’s WTA and in response they have removed the ranking points for next month’s tournament.

Banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships was the only viable option under the guidance provided by the British government, the AELTC said last month.

McEnroe, who claimed three of his seven Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon, said there was no winner in the tussle.

Tennis legend John McEnroe says he believes Wimbledon made a 'mistake' in banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year's tournament but also ranking points should not have been removed from the Slam by the ATP and the WTA

Tennis legend John McEnroe says he believes Wimbledon made a ‘mistake’ in banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament but also ranking points should not have been removed from the Slam by the ATP and the WTA

Players such as Russia's Daniil Medvedev, the world No 2, won't be able to compete at SW19

Players such as Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, the world No 2, won’t be able to compete at SW19

‘It was a mistake (to ban Russian and Belarusian players). I know that it’s a very horrible, tricky, terrible situation, obviously, in Ukraine,’ the 63-year-old told Reuters.

‘And no one else has made that decision. I think there was something with the government? I don’t know exactly. I wish that wasn’t what they did. And I wish the ATP and the WTA didn’t decide it, say right now no points.

‘It’s like a lose-lose right now. Tennis players, we are like a fraternity. We travel the world. And even if we speak different languages, there’s a connection. And in a small way, it’s like a family. And we need to support each other.

‘It’s difficult to see like some of our best players not playing because of something they have nothing to do with. So I hope it is resolved. I don’t know. But it’s a bad situation.’

The Wimbledon ban rules out Russia’s men’s world No 2 and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev from competing at the June 27-July 10 tournament.

Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka, ranked seventh, and former world No 1 and twice major winner Victoria Azarenka will also miss out.

Wimbledon organizers were worried a Russian player winning the tournament may have been used as propaganda by Vladimir Putin's regime

Wimbledon organizers were worried a Russian player winning the tournament may have been used as propaganda by Vladimir Putin’s regime

Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, is another player who will be barred from Wimbledon this year

Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, is another player who will be barred from Wimbledon this year

Ranking points determine a player’s ability to enter tennis events and receive seedings, so stripping them from Wimbledon effectively reduces the event to an exhibition tournament.

Players will also be unable to defend the points they earned last year at Wimbledon and will drop down the rankings.

McEnroe described the situation as 'lose-lose'

McEnroe described the situation as ‘lose-lose’

Japan’s four-time major champion Naomi Osaka said last week that she was ‘not 100 per cent sure’ of playing at Wimbledon without the ranking points.

‘I see all players going to Wimbledon, but that depends on the individual,’ Eurosport tennis pundit McEnroe added.

‘The fact that there’s no points, I disagree with that, but I don’t think that’s going to stop people, the players from going to Wimbledon.

‘We’ll know in a few weeks, but I would think all the top players that believe they can do well there are going to still play.’

It came a week after McEnroe clashed with former British No 1 Tim Henman over the issue in an awkward TV debate.

‘I’m gonna go after Mr Henman because I think it was a mistake by Wimbledon to do what they did in the first place, kicking out the Russians and Belarusians,’ McEnroe said.

‘If the players really believe that Wimbledon had made a big mistake by not allowing the Russian and Belarusian players to play, in my opinion, they should have boycotted the tournament.’

He then added: ‘By the way Mr Henman, we could share players’ profits. How about 50/50 with the All-England club now we’re on the subject of that?’

Henman chuckled and said there were ‘no winners’ from Wimbledon’s decision and admitted he felt sympathy for Russian and Belarusian players, but said it was unrealistic to expect officials to go against the Government given their strict stance on Russia. he said.

John McEnroe was involved in a heated debate with Tim Henman over Wimbledon

Former British No 1 had sympathized with their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players

John McEnroe and Tim Henman were involved in an awkward TV debate about Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from their tournament

‘I don’t know how they came up with the Belarusians too but that’s a whole other story. In my opinion, compounded by the fact that now the ATP and the WTA say there are now no points, I don’t see how that helps the players.

‘The reality of the situation is there are no winners and I feel enormous sympathy for the Russian and Belarusian players who cannot play,’ he said in response.

‘When you go through the circumstances presented to Wimbledon, the directive from the government is players are not allowed to play as neutral athletes, like on the tour at the moment.

‘So the question in return is Wimbledon expected to turn around, given their status in the UK, and say to the government actually we think we know better so will do something different?

Novak Djokovic won last year's men's singles tournament, beating Matteo Berrettini in the final

Novak Djokovic won last year’s men’s singles tournament, beating Matteo Berrettini in the final

‘Wimbledon are not going to jeopardize the safety of their players or their families, and that’s before you talk about the propaganda of a Russian or Belarusian player receiving the trophy on Center Court potentially in the second week.

‘The first two options are horrific and the third option is you don’t invite Russian and Belarusian players and that’s not much fun.’

McEnroe concluded the chat by adding: ‘It sounds like a lose-lose for everybody’.

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