When the All England Club elected to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Wimbledon, the ATP membership was very upset.
The ATP is the governing body of men’s tennis and understandably there were accusations from the players this was unfair and unjust on the individuals involved who, of course, hold no sway over the actions of their government.
The ATP is a partnership between players and tournaments and they have rules about how their ranking points are distributed. They made the fair point Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association had broken the rules regarding ATP Tour requirements.
I don’t know many in the game who do not understand the criticism of the ATP and players but what were Wimbledon to do faced with the following dilemma? Government guidance, reiterated in a series of personal meetings, was players may compete if they were to publicly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This was rightly deemed impractical and unworkable. It may have imperilled the player or player’s family.
The other option was to disallow their participation, to ban them to guarantee there was no chance of any Russian success at Wimbledon being used by Vladimir Putin as some sort of victory.
Other considerations were the possibility of Ukrainians and Russians playing each other and no doubt security concerns around the latter. So that’s the overview, now here’s the personal.
We have a family from Mariupol living with us. They have lost their home, their future, their assets and any sense of safety and security.
They have seen things which you should not, including aeroplanes overhead dropping bombs on them. Their city is obliterated and the mother, a lawyer with a degree in psychology, checks each day the lists of the living and the dead that brave volunteers compile in a city now occupied by ill-disciplined thugs acting in the name of a barbaric megalomaniac.
Her father-in-law is in Mariupol. She thinks he is underground. Her husband, the father of her 13-year-old daughter, remains in Ukraine at the service of his government.
If the ATP punishes Wimbledon, stripping it of ranking points for taking a stand against the perpetrators of the horrors we have read about and she has borne witness to, it should suffer reputational damage and commercial penalties. What business would want to associate with a governing body that has taken such a position?
Of course it is unfair on players like Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka but inaction against Putin has led to a different type of unfairness. Ponder the silence of the dead women and children underneath the historic theatre of Mariupol.
We should be listening to the voices, now quiet, of the dead mothers and babies of the maternity unit bombed knowingly and targeted by Russia.
A message has to be sent to the Russian people of the barbarity. Our guest, now a refugee, has friends 30 miles from her destroyed home who tell her to return, that it is safe and do not believe western propaganda.
That Russia is freeing her from the tyranny of her democratically elected, yet Nazi government. They know so little of the truth of this war. If Medvedev can’t play, maybe someone in Russia will ask why.
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