The women's and men’s professional tennis tours have announced they will not award ranking points for Wimbledon this year because of the All England Club’s ban on players from Russia and Belarus over the Ukraine conflict.
The WTA and ATP announced their decisions late on Friday, two days before the start of the French Open — and a little more than a month before play begins at Wimbledon on June 27.
“The ability for players of any nationality to enter tournaments based on merit, and without discrimination, is fundamental to our tour,” the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) said in a statement.
“The decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the UK this summer undermines this principle and the integrity of the ATP ranking system.”
A statement attributed to Women's Tennis Association (WTA) Chairman and CEO Steve Simon and released by that tour on Friday echoed the same sentiment.
"The WTA believes that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalised or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”
In addition, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Friday it would not grant its ranking points for the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon this year.
The unprecedented move stands as a significant rebuke of the sport's oldest Grand Slam tournament. In a technical sense, this renders the event an exhibition, because there are no ranking points at stake.
The All England Club released a statement expressing its “deep disappointment” at the removal of ranking points, calling the tours’ position “disproportionate in the context of the exceptional and extreme circumstances."
The club reiterated the two main ways in which it previously defended the choice to bar Russians and Belarusians. One was that it followed advice from the British government.
They were also unwilling "to accept success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian government, which, through its closely controlled State media, has an acknowledged history of using sporting success to support a triumphant narrative to the Russian people.”
Among the prominent players affected by the ban are reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached Number 1 in the rankings and is currently Number 2, and men's Number 7 Andrey Rublev, who are from Russia.
Women's Number 7 Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, and Victoria Azarenka, a former Number 1 who has won the Australian Open twice, are also affected as they are from Belarus.
Russian athletes have been prevented from competing in many sports, including soccer’s World Cup qualifying playoffs, since the country began attacking Ukraine in February. Belarus was accused of aiding Russia in the offensive.