Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes was once again a major talking point during Monday’s French Open coverage. So much so that tennis legends John McEnroe and Tim Henman got into a passionate discussion, with one month to go before the tournament gets underway.
Wimbledon has been made an unranked event at which neither ATP or WTA Tour points can be won. This is in response to Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has lasted for three months.
“I’m gonna go after Mr Henman,” said McEnroe on Eurosport while discussing the matter. “Because I think it was a mistake by Wimbledon to do what they did in the first place, kicking out the Russians and Belarusians. I don’t know how they came up with the Belarusians too but that’s a whole other story.” Belarus was added as a banned nation after aiding Russia in its siege, allowing planes to use their airports as airstrips and housing Russian soldiers.
“In my opinion, compounded by the fact that now the ATP and the WTA say there are now no points, I don’t see how that helps the players,” McEnroe continued. “If the players really believe that Wimbledon had made a big mistake by not allowing the Russian and Belarusian players to play, in my opinion, they should have boycotted the tournament.”
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McEnroe moved the conversation onto the possibility of players signing a declaration against the Russian government. This comes with complications of its own, however, as he added players “can spend 15 years in prison if they say that there’s even a war going on, anything negative about what’s happening right now”.
Seven-time major-winner McEnroe concluded by calling the situation “a lose-lose for everybody” following what Henman dubbed some “horrific decisions” by Wimbledon. Many fans will concur as some of their favourite stars miss out, while organisers are forced to contend with a very unique set of circumstances.