‘Its devastating Martina Navratilova breaks down over Wimbledon ban of Russians

Wimbledon: Martina Navratilova ‘devastated’ by ban

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Ms Navratilova described All England Club’s decision as “just wrong”, saying that while banning the representation of your country was understandable, it did not make sense on an individual level. Her comments align with the governing body, the Association of Tennis Professionals, who criticised the Wimbledon ban as “unfair” and accused the Club of setting “a damaging precedent for the game”.

Speaking to Andrew Marr on LBC, Ms Navratilova said: “I understand the banning of teams, of course, of representing the countries, but on an individual level, I just think it’s wrong. 

“I remember in the days of aparteid, South African players would compete but South Africa could not be represented, and that regime was no better than what’s happening now. 

“My heart is torn because I cannot imagine what it is like for the UKrainian players to be dealing with this.

“It’s devastating because as a player growing up, [Wimbledon] is the one you dream about the most. 

“And not being allowed to play, because of politics, unless you denounce your country and leave, and risk your family’s well being as well as your own, maybe never to be able to return to Russia, is a big ask of the players.”

The ban means that men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev of Russia and women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will not be allowed to participate. 

Ms Sabalenka reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year while Mr Medvedev reached the fourth round. 

The All England Club deliberated over the ban for nearly two months and reportedly received extensive legal advice on the matter. 

They were believed to be concerned about the optics should Mr Medvedev lift the famous silver gilt cup on Centre Court. 

In a statement, the All England Club said: “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 Lawn Tennis Association has also banned athletes from competing in all UK grass events, including the prestigious Queen’s Club event. 

Justifying its decision, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) claimed it had a responsibility to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.

Other players set to miss out now include the men’s world number eight Andrew Rublev, who wrote “No war please” on a TV camera lens after a match in Dubai. 

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The ATP have vociferously criticised the move, accusing the All England Club of “discrimination. 

They said: “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,

“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.

“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.”

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