Why has the Wimbledon controversy overshadowed French Open?

Some big players may not play at Wimbledon next month after ATP and WTA decided to remove ranking points from the grass court tournament

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Novak Djokovic will lose his number one ranking even if he wins the Wimbledon this year. (AP)
Novak Djokovic will lose his number one ranking even if he wins the Wimbledon this year. (AP)


Published: Tue 24 May 2022, 5:54 PM

The French Open is being overshadowed by the controversy sparked by the decision of Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from next month’s grass court Grand Slam.

So Wimbledon, the most prestigious of all Grand Slams which starts only on June 27, is in the eye of the storm following the decision from ATP and WTA, the governing bodies for men’s and women’s tennis, to take a strong action against the grass court event for banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament.

No ranking points

This crisis could prompt some players to skip the event after the ATP and WTA tours stripped Wimbledon of ranking points.

Wimbledon banned players from Russia and Belarus in response to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine even though they are allowed to continue competing at other tournaments, including the ongoing French Open.

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players,” the All England Club said.

It is not the first time that the tournament has instituted a ban — players from Germany and Japan were prevented from competing in the immediate aftermath of World War II.

The ATP and WTA, who run the professional tours, responded by stripping the event of ranking points.

“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our Tour. 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,” ATP said in a statement.

Osaka not playing Wimbledon

Former world number one Naomi Osaka said she is considering not playing Wimbledon if there are no ranking points.

“I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances. I’m the type of player that gets motivated by seeing my ranking go up,” said the four-time major winner.

Djokovic ‘intends to go’

Defending champion Novak Djokovic “intends to go” although he insisted on Monday that the decision to ban players was a “mistake” and that other options were available. He says the impasse is a “lose-lose situation”.

Djokovic will attempt to win a seventh title at Wimbledon even though he stands to lose the 2,000 points he claimed in 2021. Ironically, Daniil Medvedev, one of the banned Russians, could inherit his top ranking as a result.

Rafa seeks unity among players

Rafael Nadal, the 21-time Grand Slam champion, deplored that players could not speak with one voice in the matter.

“The problem with the players’ side is always the same. From the tournament side, there is always a person and a board, a person or a board who make decisions,” the Spaniard told reporters.

“And the rest of the people running the event follow that position. In our tour, every single player has a different opinion, and that’s why we never achieve the things that we could achieve if we would be together.”

Exhibition tournament

Osaka said that without ranking points, Wimbledon would resemble an “exhibition” tournament, but the prospects of a large-scale snubbing of Wimbledon are unlikely.

The allure of prize money for the lower-ranked players in particular will be too tempting — in 2021, first round losers pocketed $60,300 each.

However, if there was a boycott of the All England Club, it would not be the first. In 1973, Yugoslavia’s Niki Pilic had been suspended by his national federation for refusing to play a Davis Cup tie, a move supported by the international body.

The ban ruled Pilic out of Wimbledon so the recently-created ATP ordered players not to compete at Wimbledon unless the suspension was lifted. Over 80 players opted not to appear.

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