Novak Djokovic has criticised Wimbledon for making the “wrong decision” in banning Russian and Belarusian players – and says there were other options available.
Wimbledon went against most other tennis tournaments by deciding to ban players from Russia and Belarus player following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a statement, Wimbledon said they had “no viable alternative within the framework of the UK government’s position”.
The decision has led to the ATP and WTA tours stripping Wimbledon of ranking points.
That means Djokovic will also not have the chance to retain 2,000 points as defending champion.
Asked about Wimbledon’s decision after his first-round win over Yoshihito Nishioka at the French Open, Djokovic said: “On a personal level without getting a chance to play and defend my 4,000 points I’m going to drop this year [from] Australia and Wimbledon… I have been very negatively affected by that.
“But I have been speaking with management and the president of ATP and some of the council members actually in the last few days. I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there is going to be some consequences.
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“So I support the players, unification always. I have always done that. I will always do that. Of course it’s up to Wimbledon or LTA [Lawn Tennis Association], whoever was making that decision to make that decision.
“But I didn’t know, for example, a few days ago I found out that there was a document of recommendation from the English government towards the All England Club and where they had several options. There was not only one on the table. They haven’t discussed it with anybody from ATP or any individual players or for that matter Russian or Belarusian players to just communicate and understand whether there is a common ground where both sides could be making a compromise and something could work out. So I think it was a wrong decision.”
The move by Wimbledon means the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Aryna Sabalenka will not play the third Grand Slam of the year.
Djokovic says it is a “very unique and weird situation” that was made worse by was a lack of “communication” by Wimbledon.
“It’s a super sensitive subject, and anything that you decide, it’s unfortunately going to create a lot of conflict, a lot of separation instead of unification.
“I think that they could have taken into consideration — for example I heard there was some recommendations coming also from WTA and ATP that possibly men’s and women’s players from Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia could play together some exhibition event during the Slam or something like this or somebody could play mixed doubles and prize money could go to the victims in Ukraine, and stuff like this. There was different ideas, but there was never really, unfortunately, a strong communication coming from Wimbledon. That’s why I think it’s just wrong.
“Whether there was, and there is, a better solution than just taking away the points and not allowing players to earn points or defend points, because they have two groups of players that are [not] going to – everyone is affected. So for me or for the guys that did well last year, we are not only not going to have chance to earn points but we can’t defend them. There are some guys that obviously are not going to have a chance to earn points. Of course it’s a very unique and weird situation, I must say.”
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said she may not play Wimbledon as it will feel like an “exhibition” event without ranking points.
However, Djokovic suggested that he still plans to defend his title.
“Of course a Grand Slam is still Grand Slam. Wimbledon for me was always my dream tournament when I was a child. I don’t look at it through the lens of points or prize money. For me, it’s something else. But again, there has to be some standards or criteria, some respect, mutual respect, I think.
“I think maybe there is always going to be some groups of players that are going to be affected more negatively, and they are going to complain more. It’s hard, really. It’s hard to say what is right, what is wrong. This is one of these kind of decisions and situations where is always going to be someone that will suffer more. It’s kind of, I would say, lose-lose situation for everyone.”