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Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal took issue with Wimbledon banning Russian and Belarusian players from the second tennis major event of the season over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus siding with the Kremlin.
No. 2 men’s player Daniil Medvedev, current U.S. Open men’s singles champion, is among those affected by a ban. Aryna Sabalenka, the No. 4 women’s player who is from Belarus, is also banned.
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“I think it’s very unfair of (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues … it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” Nadal said in Spain, where he and the Serbian tennis star are getting ready to play at the Madrid Open.
He added: “I’m sorry for them. Wimbledon just took their decision … the government didn’t force them to do it. Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard.”
NOVAK DJOKOVIC CAN PLAY AT WIMBLEDON; NO VACCINATION REQUIRED
Djokovic compared the situation to when he was banned from the Australian Open and the country of Australia for not being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“It’s not the same thing, but going through something similar earlier this year for myself, it’s frustrating knowing that you’re not able to play. I still stand by my position that I don’t support the (Wimbledon) decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right, but it is what it is,” he said.
The All England Club, which hosts Wimbledon, justified its actions in a statement posted to Twitter.
“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships,” the organization said.
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Wimbledon begins June 27.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.