Novak Djokovic: 'Crazy' for Wimbledon to Bar Russian Players amid Invasion of Ukraine

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 2022

BELGRADE, SERBIA - APRIL 20: Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts during the match against Laslo Djere of Serbia during the day three of Serbia Open ATP 250 Tournament at Novak Tennis Centre on April 20, 2022 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images)
Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic joined the list of voices critical of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon this year.

"I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war," he told reporters. "... However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good."

The All England Club announced Wednesday that it will prohibit athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing at Wimbledon, citing Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

"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," the club said.

Governing bodies across sports have reacted with similar measures as a result of the invasion. For the most part, though, it applied in instances when an athlete was representing Russia or Belarus at the national-team level.

That isn't the case with Wimbledon, so Djokovic echoed the sentiments of those who think the All England Club's decision was unnecessarily punitive.

The ATP Tour described the move as "unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game." The association also said discriminating against players on the basis of their nationality would violate its agreement with Wimbledon.

The WTA struck a similar tone: "A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination. That principle is expressly set forth in our rules and has been agreed to by both AELTC and LTA."

Wimbledon is scheduled to begin June 27.

The All England Club appeared to leave the door open for a reversal of the ban, saying officials will undertake a review "if circumstances change materially between now and June."

Given the outcry already, a material change in circumstances could be growing.