Novak Djokovic calls out Wimbledon over ban on Russian, Belarusian players: ‘I think it is crazy’

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Novak Djokovic called out Wimbledon organizers after the All England Club announced its decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament, calling the ruling “crazy.” 

Djokovic, a six-time Wimbledon champion, spoke out about the decision at the Serbian Open on Wednesday, saying that while he will always condemn war, politics and sports should never mix. 

WIMBLEDON TO BAR RUSSIAN, BELARUSIAN PLAYERS FROM COMPETING: REPORTS

Novak Djokovic calls out Wimbledon over ban on Russian, Belarusian players: 'I think it is crazy'

“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic said of his youth, via Sky Sport. “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.”

Novak Djokovic calls out Wimbledon over ban on Russian, Belarusian players: 'I think it is crazy'

Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns 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. 
(Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images)

He continued: “However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”

Wimbledon organizers said Wednesday its decision comes amid Russia’s “unprecedented military aggression” against Ukraine and its people. The All England Club previously said in March that it was having discussions with the British government about whether to implement a ban, similar to several other international sports governing bodies. 

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“It is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts … to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible,” the statement read. “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.”

Novak Djokovic calls out Wimbledon over ban on Russian, Belarusian players: 'I think it is crazy'

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. 
(Nikola Krstic/MB Media/Getty Images)

Among the prominent men’s players affected by the ban are reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is currently No. 2, and No. 8 Andrey Rublev. The women’s players affected include No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year; Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open runner-up last year.

The ATP released a statement calling the ban “unfair.”

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“Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings,” the statement read. “We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”

Novak Djokovic calls out Wimbledon over ban on Russian, Belarusian players: 'I think it is crazy'

Daniil Medvedev of Russia during a match between Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan as part of day 4 of the Telcel ATP Mexican Open 2022 at Arena GNP Seguros on Feb. 24, 2022 in Acapulco, Mexico. 
(Regina Cortina/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils.”

The WTA echoed that sentiment, saying it was “disappointed” in the decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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