The ATP and the WTA have stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points in response to barring Russian and Belarusian players from the summer’s Grand Slam.
The decision marks a significant split among tennis governing bodies in responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and essentially reduces this year’s Wimbledon to an exhibition event. Players who performed well last year will also be unable to defend their points, meaning there is likely to be significant disruption to the rankings.
Players from Russia and Belarus were banned by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) from all UK grass-court events in April. 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 move was criticised by a number of big-name players, including Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. However, the AELTC said that while it regretted the impact on players, it had made the “only viable decision for Wimbledon as a globally renowned sporting event and British institution”.
Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed to compete elsewhere as neutral athletes, and they will be present at the French Open.
In a statement, the ATP said: “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.”
The WTA said: “The recent decisions made by the AELTC and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to ban athletes from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events violate that fundamental principle, which is clearly embodied in the WTA rules, the Grand Slam rules, and the agreement the WTA has with the Grand Slam.”
Steve Simon, the WTA Chairman, said in a statement: “As a result of the AELTC’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.
“The stance we are taking is about protecting the equal opportunities that WTA players should have to compete as individuals.
“If we do not take this stance, then we abandon our fundamental principle and allow the WTA to become an example to support discrimination based on nationality at other events and in other regions around the world. The WTA will continue to apply its rules to reject such discrimination.”
We stand squarely behind the decision that Wimbledon and the LTA have taken to stand up for what is right
– Nadine Dorries, Culture Secretary
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) also announced that it will not grant ranking points in the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon.
In response to the decision, the AELTC said in a statement: “We appreciate that opinions differ in relation to our decision to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to the championships this year, and we deeply regret the impact of this decision on the individuals affected.
“However, given the position taken by the UK Government to limit Russia’s global influence, which removed automatic entry by ranking, and the widespread response of Government, industry, sport and creative institutions, we remain of the view that we have made the only viable decision for Wimbledon as a globally renowned sporting event and British institution, and we stand by the decision we have made.”
Despite the discomfort about the initial ban, over 90 players have opposed the points deduction, with some writing to the tours and criticising player councils for not representing their views.
Aleksandr Dolgopolov, a recently retired Ukrainian player who returned to Ukraine to enlist in the army, said the decision “made the N1 propagandist of russia happy by taking away points from Wimbledon”. Fellow Ukrainian player Sergiy Stakhovsky critised the ATP for “standing on the side of invaders and murderers”.
She said: “The international sporting community rightly moved quickly and came together to condemn Putin’s illegal and barbaric actions in Ukraine.
“Given the importance of sport and cultural bodies in making the Russian government an international pariah, we stand squarely behind the decision that Wimbledon and the LTA have taken to stand up for what is right.
“We deeply regret today’s decision and urge the ATP, WTA and the ITF to consider their stance on ranking points at the Championships. It does not send the right message to either Putin or the people of Ukraine.”