MADRID — Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic criticized Wimbledon’s decision to exclude Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The two tennis greats said Sunday that Wimbledon had acted unfairly, with Nadal saying that the decision was “very unfair” to his Russian colleagues.
“It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” Nadal, a 21-time Grand Slam winner, said in Spain, where both he and Djokovic are preparing to play in the Madrid Open.
“I’m sorry for them,” Nadal said. “Wimbledon just took their decision. … The government didn’t force them to do it.”
Nadal added: “Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard.”
The ATP and WTA tennis tours have both publicly criticized the All England Club’s decision, which was announced April 20.
Wimbledon starts on June 27.
The prominent players affected by the ban include reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who are all from Russia. Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, which has aided Russian forces, would also be unable to play.
Djokovic compared the situation of the excluded players to what he went through in January, when he was unable to play the Australian Open. He was deported from Australia for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s not the same thing, but going through something similar earlier this year for myself, it’s frustrating knowing that you’re not able to play,” Djokovic said. “I still stand by my position that I don’t support the [Wimbledon] decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right, but it is what it is.”
The All England Club had defended its action in a statement first posted on Twitter.
“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 statement said.