Twenty-time grand slam champion Novak Djokovic has criticized the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at Wimbledon this year, calling the move “crazy.”
Wimbledon organizers announced on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to compete at this year’s edition following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” the world No. 1 told reporters at the Serbia Open.
Djokovic was just 11 years old when he endured air strikes on the Serbian capital, which marked the beginning of what would be a 78-day campaign by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to try and bring an end to atrocities committed by Yugoslavia’s then-president Slobodan Milosevic’s troops against ethnic Albanians in the province of Kosovo.
“I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia, we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history,” he told reporters.
“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
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Wimbledon on Wednesday announced and defended their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament.
“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,” the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said in a statement.
“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,” it added.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that a ban on Russian players taking part at Wimbledon as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “unacceptable.”
The ban on Russian players will prevent several high ranked players from competing at the iconic grass court grand slam.
Four Russian men, including world number two and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, are currently ranked in the top 30 of the ATP Tour.
Russia has five women in the top 40 of the WTA Tour rankings.
Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka is currently ranked fourth in the world and was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year while compatriot Victoria Azarenka, a former world No. 1, is currently ranked No. 18.
The AELTC’s decision is the first time Russian and Belarusian players have been prohibited from competing in an elite tennis event.