Wimbledon, the third of the four majors on the tennis calendar, is arguably the most famous tennis tournament in the world.
This year, however, the men’s and women’s professional tours, along with the International Tennis Federation (ITF), have opted to strip its ranking points for the grand slam event.
The announcements to remove the ranking points, which were made separately Friday by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the ITF, come following the decision from the tournament’s organizers to ban Russians and Belarusians from playing in this year’s event.
“The stance we are taking is about protecting the equal opportunities that WTA players should have to compete as individuals,” a statement from WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said. “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.”
“Discrimination by individual tournaments is simply not viable on a Tour that operates in more than 30 countries,” an ATP statement said.
“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 ITF, announcing it was withdrawing ranking points for the Wimbledon juniors and wheelchair events, said: “This difficult decision has been taken as a protective measure that upholds the principle of open entry to international competition based on merit and protects the integrity of ITF international tennis competitions. The ITF’s position remains that Russian and Belarusian athletes remain eligible to participate as neutral athletes.”
The AELTC, which is a subsidiary of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, said in a statement Friday it stands by its decision. Wimbledon organizers said in April Russians and Belarusians would not be allowed to compete at this year’s tournament.
“As we have previously stated, after careful consideration against a variety of factors, and bound to act in accordance with the directive guidance from the UK Government, we came to two firm conclusions that formed the basis for this decision,” the AELTC statement said.
It continued: “We were not prepared to take any actions which could risk the personal safety of players, or their families. We believe that requiring written declarations from individual players – and that would apply to all relevant players – as a condition of entry in the high-profile circumstances of Wimbledon would carry significant scrutiny and risk.
“In addition, we remain unwilling to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which, through its closely controlled State media, has an acknowledged history of using sporting success to support a triumphant narrative to the Russian people.
“We therefore wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions taken by the ATP, WTA and ITF in removing ranking points for The Championships. 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.
“We are considering our options, and we are reserving our position at this stage. We are also in discussion with our Grand Slam colleagues.”