Wimbledon chief speaks about who will open 2022 competition
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Novak Djokovic has revealed he’s been told that Wimbledon chiefs are “very strict” after the All England Club imposed a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian players ahead of this year’s tournament. But the Serbian doesn’t think players should boycott the SW19 event in protest.
Wimbledon announced their ban last month following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which began in late February. But the decision has been slammed by the ATP and the WTA, with the governing bodies both mulling over the option to strip the tournament of its ranking points. And Djokovic also thinks Wimbledon have got it wrong but admits he hasn’t been involved in any conversations with tournament bosses.
“Athletes are here to do sports,” Djokovic said. “If we expel them from sports just because they come from a certain country, that is a bad decision. We need communication with Wimbledon.
“I am not involved in the negotiations like 10 years ago and I do not talk to the representatives of Wimbledon – but they told me that they are very strict. [A] boycott is a very aggressive thing – as well as that there are much better solutions.”
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Djokovic is the reigning Wimbledon champion and has won the tournament six times throughout his illustrious career. He is set to defend his title this summer after being banned from the Australian Open in January due to the fact he hasn’t been vaccinated against COVID-19. And last month he avowed that politics and sport should not mix after Wimbledon revealed their ban.
“Ordinary people always suffer – we’ve had lots of wars in the Balkans,” Djokovic explained. “That being said, I cannot support the Wimbledon decision. It’s not the athletes’ fault. When politics interfere with sport, it usually doesn’t turn out well.”
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Wimbledon’s ban means the likes of US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and world No 7 Andrey Rublev won’t be able to compete at this year’s men’s tournament. And world No 7 Aryna Sabalenka will be barred from the women’s draw.
But the All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt thinks the SW19 tournament had no other options. “We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” he said last month.
“We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”
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