I went back and forth to find out if the AELTC had made the right decision. But after many conversations with people on both ends of this political argument – because it is political – I have come to a conclusion. The club made the wrong choice.
Then the club mentions its “duties to the players, to our community and to the general British public as a British sporting institution”. I am intrigued by this part of the statement on many levels. How are Wimbledon’s duties to players different from other professional tennis tournaments around the world? Yes, we all know Wimbledon is unique, it’s special – and don’t they like to remind us of that.
No doubt, Wimbledon is extremely prestigious. It is one of four Grand Slam tournaments that are played every year, except during world wars and pandemics. But honestly, for the players, it’s another tournament.
And what about Wimbledon’s duties to the community and the general public? You would think that all the other professional tennis tournaments that have taken place around the world also have a similar duty – especially the big events across Europe in recent months. None of these events – including the French Open, another of tennis’ four “majors”, and the Italian Open in Rome – had any problems related to this war or to individual players from Russia and from Belarus in particular.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF), the governing body of world tennis, oversees Olympic tennis competition and organizes annual team competitions by country. It, like most other major sports, rightly banned all Russian and Belarusian teams from international competitions.
It’s not just the top players, but countless other professionals who have lost their chance to play at Wimbledon this year – and perhaps for years to come. Is it really fair?
In two of the men’s grass events leading up to Wimbledon, Medvedev reached back-to-back finals – one in the Netherlands and another tournament in Germany. There were no protests, no disturbances, even with the participation and success of a player like Medvedev.
Yes, Wimbledon is bigger, more global and prestigious than these events. But I find it increasingly unlikely, given what we’ve seen in other sporting events around the world, that if Wimbledon allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete, it would face problems that it wouldn’t couldn’t handle.
More often than not, Wimbledon has been ahead of the curve in just about everything it has done to promote the game and its event. This time however, he double faulted.