Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens said she supports the decision to strip Wimbledon of ranking points in response to the tournament’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players after the invasion of Ukraine.
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The move by the sport’s major tours, the ATP and WTA, to withhold points for Wimbledon – which runs from June 27 to July 10 – threatens to reduce the Grand Slam to the status of a high-profile exhibition event.
“I think the decision that was made is the right one,” Stephens said on Sunday after defeating German Jules Niemeyer in the first round at Roland Garros.
“I think there’s been a lot of things going on behind the scenes that the press doesn’t know about, and I think there’s been a lot of mishandling of how everything was handled.”
WTA chief executive Steve Simon said his organization believes that “individual athletes involved in individual sport should not be penalized solely because of their nationalities or decisions made by the governments of their countries”.
“Obviously I support our CEO, I support my council, I support the players. Obviously, the decision that was made was not taken seriously,” said Stevens, the 2018 French Open runner-up.
“I think when you’re put into a corner and that’s all you can do, I think that’s why the decision was made, and I support it.”
The Wimbledon ban has lifted a slew of top players, including men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and last year’s runner-up Arina Sabalenka of Belarus, as well as two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.
But the Wimbledon chiefs at the All England Club called the move by the ATP and the Tennis Association “disproportionate”.
Tim looks at the ‘big picture’
Casper Rudd, who has won seven of his eight titles on clay, said it was unfair to grass-court professionals not being able to earn standings points at Wimbledon.
“It’s hard to confuse politics with sports,” Rudd said after winning the Geneva Open final on Saturday.
“Wimbledon isn’t where I get most of my points, so for me it doesn’t matter so much when you think about points but for the other players it’s unfair of course that they can’t get the chance.”
Dominic Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, sought to put the issue into perspective.
“I think it’s a difficult decision for everyone… for some players it can be very painful,” he said after his French Open exit on Sunday.
“But we always have to keep in mind the big picture that Wimbledon or all of our tennis world is, it’s really not a problem at all.
“The real problem is in Ukraine and we hope that soon peace will prevail again.”
“A lot of players are disappointed” with the decision, said Ons Jabeur, who reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon last year.
“I wish we had points, if I’ve got the quarter-finals, the main concern for me is … are they going to keep last year’s points, how are they going to replace them, because it’s not fair if we drop all the points without defending anything,” she said. Especially since some people have been to semi-finals.”
“So it is a very difficult decision. I will just try to get as many points as possible in the grass season in other tournaments.”
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