Andy Murray ‘not supportive’ of Wimbledon ban on Russian players

Andy Murray is “not supportive” of the Government’s plan to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon but added there was no “right answer” to the difficult situation.

Wimbledon officials reiterated their position last week, saying that a directive from the Government regarding the invasion of Ukraine had left them with no viable alternative but to refuse entries from players from the two countries.

Murray, who is donating all of his prize money this season to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, said the guidance from the Government “was not helpful” and could potentially put the families of players at risk.

Andy Murray file photo
Andy Murray said the Government’s guidance to Russian and Belarusian players could put their families at risk (Steven Paston/PA)

“I’m not supportive of players getting banned,” the former world number one told reporters in Spain ahead of his first-round match against Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Open.

“My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they’re against the war and against the Russian regime. I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families (as a result).

“I don’t think there’s a right answer.

“I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I’ve spoken to some of the Ukrainian players. I feel really bad for the players who aren’t allowed to play and I get that it will seem unfair to them.

“But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in.

“I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can’t play, and I don’t support one side or the other.”

There has been some support for Wimbledon’s position, especially from Ukrainians within tennis, but the reaction has been largely negative, with the ATP and WTA both deciding whether to impose penalties.

Rafael Nadal, who has won two of his 21 grand slam singles titles at Wimbledon called the ban “very unfair”.

Rafael Nadal File Photo
Nadal is playing his first tournament in six weeks after suffering a stress fracture of a rib (PA)

Speaking ahead of his return to action in the Spanish capital, Nadal told reporters: “I think it’s very unfair (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war.”

The 21-time grand slam champion’s words were not appreciated by Ukrainian former top-50 player Sergiy Stakhovsky, who returned to his country following the invasion to join the reserve forces.

Stakhovsky wrote on Twitter: “We competed together.. we’ve played each other on tour. Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home? How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot ply tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?”

Action against Wimbledon and the preceding grass-court tournaments run by the Lawn Tennis Association could include the removal of ranking points.

Nadal, who is a member of the ATP Player Council, added: “The 2,000 points, whenever we go to the grand slams, they are really important and we have to go to those tournaments. So we will have to see the measures that we take.

“At the end of the day, what happens in our game, it doesn’t have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine.”

Novak Djokovic spoke about the situation at the Madrid Open
Novak Djokovic spoke about the situation at the Madrid Open (Manu Fernandez/AP)

World number one Novak Djokovic reiterated his opposition to the ban, saying: “I still stand by my position that I don’t support the decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right, but it is what it is.

“They are entitled to make the decision and now I guess it’s on the player council, the tour management, to really decide along with the players what is the best solution in this situation, whether they keep the points, protect the points, take away 50 per cent of the points, or whatever.

“I really doubt that there won’t be any points. Probably the more realistic option is to protect the points from the Russian and Belarusian players that are not playing.”