ATP punish Wimbledon for ban on Russian and Belarusian players

Decision marks most significant split among the tennis governing bodies in a long time

The ATP has decided to punish Wimbledon for its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament by stripping ranking points from the tournament this year.

The decision marks the most significant split among the tennis governing bodies in a long time. It means that Wimbledon will essentially be rendered an exhibition event in the ATP tennis ecosystem, with players unable to earn the ranking points this year as they do at all other official tournaments in the year.

Those who performed well at last year’s edition will be unable to defend their points, meaning there could be significant disruption to the rankings. The WTA’s decision is imminent.

“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour,” said the ATP in a statement. “The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP ranking system.

“It is also inconsistent with our rankings agreement. Absent a change in circumstances, it is with great regret and reluctance that we see no option but to remove ATP ranking points from Wimbledon for 2022.

The statement continued: “Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole. Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the Tour. Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries.”

Additionally, the ITF has announced the removal of points from the Juniors and Wheelchair tournaments at Wimbledon: “Tournament organisers are not permitted to unilaterally impose entry criteria inconsistent with the ITF’s published open entry criteria,” said the ITF in a statement. “Therefore, in accordance with its protocols, the ITF has the right to withdraw ranking points.”

In April, Wimbledon announced that they would not allow Russian or Belarusian players to compete at the tournament in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The All England Club cited the possibility of the Russian government using any Russian player’s success as propaganda during the invasion and the British government’s guidelines as reasons for the decision.

The ATP responded firmly by accusing Wimbledon of violating their agreements and discriminating against players since athletes compete as individuals in tennis. With the significant popularity and revenue generated by grand slam tournaments, withholding ranking points is one of the few options the tours have to exert power over Wimbledon.

Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed elsewhere as neutral athletes and they will be present at the French Open, which begins on Sunday.

The ATP continued: “We greatly value our long-standing relationships with Wimbledon and the LTA and do not underestimate the difficult decisions faced in responding to recent UK government guidance. However, we note that this was informal guidance, not a mandate, which offered an alternative option that would have left the decision in the hands of individual players competing as neutral athletes through a signed declaration.”

The Guardian understands that there is a significant split among players over both Wimbledon’s initial decision and the reaction from the tennis governing bodies.

While some players have previously registered their discomfort at Wimbledon’s initial decision and the ATP player council recommended the withdrawal of ranking points, around 90 players have opposed the points deduction, with some writing to the tours and criticising the player councils for not representing their views.

Despite the LTA’s decision to follow Wimbledon’s lead by refusing entry to players in the ATP and WTA lead-up events, the ATP have also opted to maintain points at the British warm-up tournaments. The men’s tennis governing body additionally affirmed that the LTA will face disciplinary action for breaching their contract.

Daniil Medvedev, the ATP No 2 and highest profile player unable to compete at Wimbledon, gave his perspective towards the ban during his press conference on Friday: "I'm not in ATP taking the decisions, I'm not in Wimbledon taking the decisions. Maybe it's government pushing them, maybe it's their decision. There a lot of mistakes behind this. So if I can play I'm going to be happy to play. I love Wimbledon as a tournament.

He added: “But if I cannot play, I’m gonna try to play next year’s and try to play good there.” - Guardian