London | ATP, WTA and ITF face backlash after stripping Wimbledon of ranking points

The decision by the ATP, WTA and ITF to strip Wimbledon of ranking points as a punishment over the AELTC’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players from competing at The Championships has been met with outrage on the part of many.

Tennis is more worried about Russians not being able to play and promote their propaganda than civil Ukrainians dying and being raped. Only Wimbledon and the LTA has shown they care about the real problem. Alex Dolgopolov

Ukraine’s Alex Dolgopolov was one of the first players to criticise the ATP’s decision in a tweet: “Well done @atptour and @WTA, you made the N1 propagandist of russia happy by taking away points from @Wimbledon. Probably will make it all over the rest of russian propaganda. Very poor decision. Can’t sit on 2 chairs.”

Recently retired Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky also launched a tirade at the ATP following the decision, tweeting: “To say that I am disappointed in @atptour would be understatement. Never would expect that anyone can stand on the side of invaders and murderers … but it seems to me that even my fellow players feel sorry for invaders and collaborants from rus/blr. Players which in 85 days were not able to produce any clear message of condemnation of invasion into Ukraine. Shameful day in tennis.”

Both Stakhovsky and Dolgopolov have joined the Ukraine military to fight the Russian invasion.

They are not be alone in feeling frustrated by the lack of input most of the players had in this decision, with the Daily Mail reporting that ‘that more than 100 singles and doubles players signed a letter protesting the measure, seeing it as heaping one unfairness on the other, and this is unlikely to be the end of the matter’.

British No 2, Dan Evans, said tour chiefs were unfairly punishing the majority of players to placate the small minority of Russians and Belarusians unable to earn points at Wimbledon.

“We should be playing for ranking points at Wimbledon and it will be disappointing for me as a Brit if we’re not,” Evans told the BBC. “It is unfortunate for the players who can’t play, but there are bigger things happening, which seems to be getting overlooked by the ATP here.

“The majority of the players think it is not ideal that the other players can’t play, but there should still be points at Wimbledon.

“In my opinion they are only trying to protect the Russian players by not letting them play.

“There are a lot of other people losing out because of a very small minority of players who are missing the tournament.”

Dan Evans has already been vocal about the discrimination now being placed on the players as a whole over the stripping of ranking points at Wimbledon

© Alex Pantling/Getty Images

According to the United Nations, at least 3,811 civilians have been killed in the war since 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, although it is feared that the true figure is far higher, and more than 6.4 million civilians have been forced to flee the country.

The conflict led to the IOC recommending that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus are banned from international competitions, a call heeded by the majority of International Federations but not the governing bodies of tennis.

“Tennis is more worried about Russians not being able to play and promote their propaganda than civil Ukrainians dying and being raped,” Dolgopolov tweeted. “Only Wimbledon and the LTA has shown they care about the real problem.”

The decision by the 3 organisations effectively makes Wimbledon an exhibition, with players competing in the men’s, women’s, junior and wheelchair events unable to obtain or defend the points they acquired last year.

Grand Slams, such as Wimbledon, offer a maximum of 2,000 ranking points for the winner.

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

WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said that his organisation believed ‘that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalised or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries’.

“As a result of the All England Tennis Club’s position that it will not honour its obligation to use the WTA Rankings for entry into Wimbledon, and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships,” he added.

The ITF then followed suit, taking away the ranking points from the junior and wheelchair events, stating: “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.”

The ATP may take a fall for its decision

© Carmen Paspersen/AFP via Getty Images

The AELTC responded by putting on record its ‘deep disappointment’ but left open the possibility of some form of comeback on behalf of all the 4 Grand Slam tournaments.

“We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation and the position we found ourselves in, and damaging to all players who compete on tour,” a statement read.

“We are considering our options and we are reserving our position at this stage. We are also in discussion with our Grand Slam colleagues.”

AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt claimed that the organisation had ‘no viable alternative’ but to impose a blanket ban, taking on guidance from the United Kingdom Government regarding limiting Russian influence.

The ATP, stated: ”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.

“Our internal discussions with affected players in fact led us to conclude this would have been a more agreeable option for the Tour.”

The body added: “We remain hopeful of further discussions with Wimbledon leading to an acceptable outcome for all concerned.”

The ITF also rebuked the UK Government’s intervention, stating that ‘it is not the politicians who decide who can take part in our competitions’.

Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic could now lose his World No 1 ranking even if he successfully defends his title

AELTC/Bob Martin - Pool/Getty Images

While the LTA also banned competitors from Russia and Belarus at the lead-up grass court tournaments, the 3 organisations have allowed ranking points to remain provided there are other events available at the time.

Men’s World No 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia and women’s World No 4 Aryna Sabalenka are among those who will not be able to take to part in the UK grass court swing.

Now, while the game’s top players will still turn up to play at Wimbledon because of its prestige and prize money, their rankings will be adversely affected as last year’s points drop off without the possibility of replenishing them this year.

Further backlash from players is expected over the coming days because many, like Evans, remain unhappy about the lack of wider consultation.

“That’s where my issue is,” Evans added. “We didn’t get asked, nobody asked my thoughts.

“I don’t think that is fair. It’s not fair the Russians will miss out either. But it’s a small minority and we’re not able to get our opinions across.

“An email went from the council with a lot of names of people who haven’t been asked. If we’re sticking it solely on tennis, and not politics, there should be points for Wimbledon.”

Spectators watch the giant screen during last year's men's final at Wimbledon

© AELTC/Andrew Baker/ via Getty Images

In making their decisions, the ATP and WTA also should have ensured that points collected at Wimbledon last year remained on the records of players for an extra 12 months.

Without freezing the ranking points collected at Wimbledon last year, Novak Djokovic will lose the World No 1 ranking, and Daniil Medvedev is likely to take over the top spot, a move that the Kremlin, no doubt, will relish.

Djokovic, the defending Wimbledon champion, is set to become the biggest loser from this controversial decision as he will be unable to defend the 2,000 ranking points he collected by clinching the title, even if he does successfully defend his French Open and Wimbledon titles over the coming weeks.

Italy’s Matteo Berrettini will lose 1,200 points after his run to last year’s Wimbledon final, and will almost certainly drop out of the top 10 in the ATP rankings.

This news is also a blow for Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who will lose the 240 ranking points she collected for her run to the last-16 at Wimbledon last year.

Djokovic has been trying to attract players to his Professional Tennis Players Association, a rival organisation to the ATP that, so far, has failed to have any impact on the sport, but now has grounds to promote his cause because, if players feel this decision on Wimbledon was taken without credible consultation, the visible split between the AELTC and the game’s Tour chiefs could become a battle that tennis could well do without.



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