Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova hit out at Wimbledon’s Russian ban

Novak Djokovic with the Wimbledon trophy

Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic has criticised the decision by Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Championships in an effort to show their opposition to the war in Ukraine.

In strong comments after he beat compatriot Laslo Djere at the Serbian Open, the world No 1 hit out at the contentious move by the All England Club to ban players fro Russia and Belarus in a bid to halt any opportunity for the Russian government to gain positive publicity from their players enjoying success a Wimbledon this summer.

The LTA, the governing body of UK tennis, has also blocked Russian players from playing in their events ahead of Wimbledon, with Djokovic and quick to condemn the decision that has divided tennis and sports fans around the world.

“I will always be the first one to condemn the war,” said Djokovic. “As a child of war, I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves. Us in Serbia, we know what was happening here in 1999.

“Ordinary people always suffer – we’ve had lots of wars in the Balkans. That being said, I cannot support the Wimbledon decision.

“It’s not the athletes’ fault. When politics interfere with sport, it usually doesn’t turn out well.”

Djokovic’s comments were echoed by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who appeared to the All England Club and the LTA to reverse their decision in a tearful interview with LBC Radio.

“The Russian and Belarusian players, some have even expressed, vocalised, their opposition to the war,” said the 18-time Grand Slam champion, who cried with emotion during the interview.

“The only option therefore now for them to play would be to leave their country.

“That’s something that I had to do in 1975, because of a totalitarian regime and now we are asking them to do the same, because of politics, because of optics.

“I understand the banning of teams, of course, representing the countries, but on an individual level, I just think it’s wrong.”

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev (Russia) and last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) are among those set to miss out on Wimbledon this summer, but the All England Club have said they will review their decision if the situation in Ukraine changes.