The WTA and ATP have decided that ranking points will be awarded for next month’s UK grass-court swing, although sanctions against Wimbledon are still under consideration.
For the WTA, the decision means that its sanctioned events in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne will go ahead as planned, while the ATP has confirmed that both Queen’s Club and Eastbourne will continue to receive points.
All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the LTA announced some weeks ago that entries from players from Russia and Belarus will not be accepted into The Championships and UK grass court tournaments because of the war in Ukraine.
Both organisations carefully considered the situation in the ‘context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader UK public as a British sporting institution’, while guidance from the UK Government was also a consideration in taking the decision.
“On behalf of the All England Club and the Committee of Management of The Championships, we wish to express our ongoing support for all those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine during these shocking and distressing times,” the statement read.
“Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.
“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 with The Championships.
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”
The decision prompted immediate criticism from both the WTA and ATP, who cited it as discriminatory to ban players from Russia and Belarus because of the actions of their governments.
Despite the rulings from both pro tours, Wimbledon could still be stripped of ranking points, and a decision on this is reported to be finely balanced, with a verdict expected from both the WTA and ATP in the next few days.
The UK stance has been criticised by a number of prominent players including World No 1 Novak Djokovic.
Players from both Russia and Belarus have been allowed to compete on the WTA and ATP tours, including at this month’s French Open, but they are playing as neutrals without reference to country or national flag and contrary to the recommendation of the IOC.
Both Player Councils had been in favour of stripping ranking points from UK tournaments but feared that such a move would result in a lot of players suffering as a result.
The removal of ranking points could see players unduly punished as these determine entry to future tournaments by way of position on the official tours’ ranking lists.
While Wimbledon’s entry is unlikely to suffer from the removal of ranking points, there are fears that Britain could miss out on staging of a new Masters grass court event planned for the run-up to The Championship.
According to reports, plans are afoot to create a top-tier Masters 1000 ATP tournament prior to the 2 weeks of Wimbledon, with Queen’s in pole position to step up to that level, as part of an expanded grass court season.
Mike Dickson of Sportsmail reports WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon told a heavily-attended conference call of leading players that he was formally recommending the removal of points from Wimbledon because there are alternative places for the barred players to compete during those weeks.
Effectively rendering Wimbledon as an exhibition event for the women could be confirmed later this week if Simon’s stance is ratified by the WTA’s Main Board and Player Council, and also increases the prospect of the ATP taking the same action against the AELTC.
Stripping Wimbledon of points, however, could spark a backlash of public and commercial opinion against the WTA and ATP for taking such a decision when unspeakable horrors are happening in Ukraine displacing millions and impacting the worldwide economy.
It is, of course, unfair on players such as Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka, but inaction against Putin has led to a different type of unfairness to millions through brutal bloodshed and savagery that the Russian and Belarusian people must be made aware of in every possible way.
Wimbledon’s ban of Russian and Belarusian players is a well-supported public message to the Russian people as well as the Putin regime.
This is a case of world events transcending tennis, and the more pressure that can be brought to bear on those perpetuating unprovoked and mindless destruction on a neighbouring nation must surely take precedence.