Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic slam Wimbledon’s move to ban Russian, Belarusian players

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·2 min read

Both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic slammed Wimbledon’s move to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament this year over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The two tennis stars, speaking from the Madrid Open on Sunday, called Wimbledon’s decision “very unfair.”

“It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” Nadal said, via The Associated Press. “I’m sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision … The government didn’t force them to do it.”

Wimbledon announced last month that players from Russia and Belarus can’t compete at Wimbledon due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — which has now been going on for more than two months. Wimbledon is just the latest in the sports world to condemn or take action against Russia in some form since the invasion began.

The tournament said in a statement in part that “it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players” at Wimbledon. Russia quickly condemned the action, per The Washington Post, and said its players are “being made the hostages of political intrigues.” The WTA and ATP also criticized the decision.

The decision to ban players from the two countries means that Daniil Medvedev, the second-ranked men’s player in the world, and Aryna Sabalenka, the fourth-ranked women’s player, won’t be able to compete. Others, like Andrey Rublev, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Victoria Azarenka will also be unable to go.

Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, joined Nadal in his criticism on Sunday — though he tried to compare the situation to when he was unable to play at the Australian Open due to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Djokovic wasn’t allowed to play at the Australian Open, as he’s unvaccinated against the coronavirus. He was initially given a “medical exemption,” but he was prohibited from entering the country after filling out forms incorrectly. His visa was later canceled, and he was ordered to leave the country. He was cleared to play in Wimbledon last month despite remaining unvaccinated

"It's not the same thing, but going through something similar earlier this year for myself, it's frustrating knowing that you're not able to play," Djokovic said, via The Associated Press. "I still stand by my position that I don't support the [Wimbledon] decision. I think it's just not fair, it's not right, but it is what it is."

Rafael Nadal of Spain
Wimbledon won't let players from Russia or Belarus compete this year due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, something Rafael Nadal didn't think was fair. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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