Tennis-Wimbledon's ban on Russians is a mistake says Djokovic

Tennis - French Open - Roland Garros, Paris, France - May 23, 2022 Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts during his first round match against Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka REUTERS/Yves Herman

PARIS (Reuters) - Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year's tournament following the invasion of Ukraine was wrong and lacked respect, world number one Novak Djokovic said on Monday.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) took the decision following Russia's invasion in February, which Moscow calls a 'special military operation'. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

As a result, Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points by the ATP and WTA Tours over its decision to exclude players from the two countries.

Rankings determine a player's ability to enter tennis events and receive seedings.

"On a personal level of course, without getting a chance to play and defend my 4,000 points from Australia and Wimbledon, I will drop them this year," said Djokovic.

"On a personal, individual level I am very negatively affected by that," said the Serb following his first round win at the French Open.

Djokovic, who missed this year's Australian Open due to his lack of a COVID-19 vaccination and subsequent deportation, said the ATP's and WTA's response to the Wimbledon decision was a reaction to a mistake.

"Collectively I am glad that players got together and showed to the Grand Slam that when there is a mistake happening we have to show there will be some consequences," he said.

"I think it (Wimbledon's ban) was a wrong decision. I don't support that at all. But at these times it is a sensitive subject and whatever you decide will create a lot of conflict."

"There was never unfortunately a strong communication coming from Wimbledon. That's why I think it's wrong."

Tennis governing bodies have themselves banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions but have allowed players from the two countries to compete as neutrals.

The Wimbledon move has been condemned by the tennis governing bodies as discriminatory.

"It's a very unique and weird situation but a Grand Slam is a Grand Slam," Djokovic said, adding he was planning to play at the tournament.

"Wimbledon has always been my dream since I was a kid. I don't look at it through the lens of points or prize money but there has to be some standards with some mutual respect," he said.

"This is one of these kinds of decisions where there will always be someone who will suffer more. It is a lose-lose situation."

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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