Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic criticized Wimbledon's decision to exclude Russian and Belarus players from this year's tournament following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The two tennis greats made the statements Sunday, the AP reports. "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, a 21-time Grand Slam winner, said in Spain, where he and Djokovic are preparing to play in the Madrid Open.
"I'm sorry for them," Nadal said. "Wimbledon just took their decision ... the government didn't force them to do it." Nadal added: "Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard." The ATP and WTA tennis tours have both publicly criticized the All England Club's decision, which was announced April 20. The tournament starts on June 27. Prominent players affected by the ban include reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, and French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, all of whomare from Russia. Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, which has aided Russian forces, also would be unable to play.
The All England Club had justified its action in a statement first posted on 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 statement said. Djokovic compared the barred players' situation to what he went through in January when he was unable to play the Australian Open. He was deported from Australia for not being vaccinated against COVID-19. "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," Djokovic said.
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