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This year’s Wimbledon has been unceremoniously stripped of ranking points, in retaliation for its banning of players from Russia and Belarus.
In a highly provocative move the ATP and WTA Tours – who also represent the players – have decided that the tournament will not contribute towards the official rankings, thereby giving it almost exhibition status.
The ATP argued its case in a statement, saying of British tennis’s stance: ‘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.’
It was also critical of the way that Wimbledon caved into government pressure, and of the way that Wimbledon acted ‘in isolation’.
The statement added: ‘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 WTA later issued a statement that largely echoed the sentiment, although went further in placing the LTA-run grass court events on probation.
Players will now lose their points from 2021, so the likes of Novak Djokovic will be denied the chance of defending the 2000 he won from twelve months ago. As expected, the pre-Wimbledon events in the UK have been spared the same treatment.
Wimbledon issued a measured statement on Friday night in response, saying ‘We wish to state our deep disappointment at the decisions. We believe these decisions to be disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances of this situation. We remain unwilling to accept success at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime.’
Wimbledon has been stripped of ranking points after banning players from Russia and Belarus
Other tournaments are allowing Russian players such as Daniil Medvedev (above) to play on
The move comes exactly one month after Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association (who operate pre-SW19 events) announced that they would be barring those from Russia and Belarus.
It followed interminable rounds of meetings, during which it emerged that there was greater acquiescence to the idea among the WTA Tour than their male ATP counterparts.
As Sportsmail revealed on Wednesday, WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon told his membership that he would be recommending the stripping of ranking points from Wimbledon.
Sportsmail understands 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.
As the reality sinks in there will be pressure for a rethink, and not just from the large number who are going to see their rankings artificially distorted.
With no ranking points on the line, this year’s Championships have taken on exhibition status
The four Grand Slams will now explore their options, with the US and Australian Opens likely to be sympathetic to the All England Club. It could lead to some alternative shadow ranking system being explored, while relations with the rump of the tour will be severely harmed.
Wimbledon will most definitely be hurt by the move, as it places an asterisk against all that is achieved there, and that after two disrupted years in succession already.
One by-product is that some players will inevitably feel less motivated and turn up merely for the cash, even if that will not be the case with the serious contenders.
Many of the wider public will be unbothered by the points deduction and queue up regardless, but it does have an effect – it is not totally unlike the Premier League having two weekends in the middle of it when points do not count towards the end of season table.
Novak Djokovic won last year’s men’s singles tournament, beating Matteo Berrettini in the final
Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov has come out in support of Wimbledon’s stance
Far greater numbers will look on in bemusement at why much of tennis appears to be standing up for representatives of two countries in the midst of a blundering, murderous invasion of its neighbour.
Wimbledon’s stance gained the support of recent top twenty player Alex Dolgopolov, who has enlisted in his native Ukraine.
He tweeted: ‘Tennis is more worried about Russians (vast majority of which didn’t say a word and probably many supportive) not being able to play and promote their propaganda, than civil Ukrainians dying and being raped.
‘Only Wimbledon and LTA has shown they care about the real problem.’
Cam Norrie reached the final of the ATP Lyon Open after a 6-2 5-7 6-4 win against Denmark’s Holger Rune. He will face Slovenian Alex Molcan in the final.