All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt explains Wimbledon’s banning of Russian, Belarusian players as ‘beyond the interests of tennis alone’

All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt was left “very disappointed” by the ATP’s and WTA’s decision to strip Wimbledon of ranking points, but he added that the championships were left with “no other viable” alternative than banning players from Russia and Belarus from competing this year.

Hewitt also said the decision was also motivated by the desire to prevent the Championships from being used to promote Russia’s political agenda.

The organisers of Wimbledon made the decision, back in April, to ban players from Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The ATP and WTA responded to the All England Club’s decision by stripping Wimbledon of any ranking points, saying the exclusion of players “undermined” the integrity of the tour.

But Hewitt, talking to ESPN on Sunday, said the call to ban players from Russia and Belarus was a decision that was “beyond the interests of tennis alone” and was “influenced by the directive guidance which the government gave us in relation to the matter.”

Hewitt said it would have been “wrong” to “defy the government guidance,” which left Wimbledon with two options: “One was a route to consider having personal declarations from players and, frankly, we did not think that was the right approach for a tournament of our kind. We were not willing to put in jeopardy any safety of players, and we think that that route would have involved implications for players’ safety or safety of their families, which really left no other viable alternative,” Hewitt told ESPN.

“But also, it was very important to us that Wimbledon, given the profile that we have, should not be used in any way, by the propaganda machine which we know the Russian government employs in relation to its own people and how their position in the world is presented and that would be, we just would not countenance Wimbledon success or participation in Wimbledon being misused in that way.

“So as a result of the combination of reasons, we were left with no viable alternative other than to decline entries. We hugely regret the impact on the individual players affected, but we also hugely regret the impact on so many innocent people which the tragic situation in Ukraine has caused.”

The All England Club’s decision meant men’s world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 Andrey Rublevand women’s No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 13 Daria Kasatkina would be prohibited from playing.

“In relation to the decision of the ATP and WTA to remove ranking points, yes, we are very disappointed with that. We believe it is a disproportionate approach and frankly we believe it is more damaging to the interests of a large majority of players, and we regret that decision of the ATP and WTA.

“We respect that opinions do differ, but we would have hoped that there would have been a different way of tackling that in the interests of the players, but as regards our decision, we certainly stand by our decision. I’d say now our primary focus is to get on with the Championships and prove that we are really a championship that is the pinnacle of the sport.”

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