John McEnroe and Tim Henman in feisty exchange over Wimbledon’s Russia ban

Aryna Sabalenka at Wimbledon

Former world No 1 John McEnroe challenged Tim Henman over Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russia and Belarusian players, but he appeared to dilute his views after the full picture was explained.

Wimbledon’s move to ban players from Russia and Belarus in response to the invasion of Ukraine has produced a mixed reaction among the tennis community, with the ATP and WTA strongly against the move.

They confirmed their position by stripping the third major championship of the year of ranking points, with Henman a member of the All England Club committee that was involved in the decision.

While McEnroe was initially hostile to the decision, Henman offered an articulate explanation that left him to conclude the whole situation was tough to explain.

“I think it was a mistake by Wimbledon to do what they did, and it’s compounded by the fact the ATP and the WTA say there are no points. I don’t see how that helps the players” said McEnroe on Eurosport.

“If the players really believe that Wimbledon made a big mistake by not allowing Russian and Belarusian players to play then they should have boycotted the tournament [like in 1973 when Nikola Pilic was not allowed to play and most of the players opted out in protest].”

Henman offered this response, as he gave insight into the reason behind Wimbledon’s decision.

“The reality of the situation is there are no winners and I feel enormous sympathy for the Russian and Belarusian players that cannot play.

“When you go through the circumstances presented to Wimbledon, the directive from the government is players are not allowed to play as neutral athletes, like on the tour at the moment.

“So the question in return is are Wimbledon expected to turn around, given their status in the UK, and say to the government actually we think we know better so will do something different?

“Wimbledon are not going to jeopardise the safety of their players or their families, and that’s before you talk about the propaganda of a Russian or Belarusian player receiving the trophy on Centre Court potentially in the second week.

“The first two options are horrific and the third option is you don’t invite Russian and Belarusian players and that’s not much fun.”

McEnroe concluded that the situation ‘sounds like a lose-lose situation for everybody’.