Wimbledon's Russian Ban Leaves a Tangle

Djokovic falls in rankings despite winning, and 2 nations claim Rybakina
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2022 7:30 PM CDT
Wimbledon's Response to Russia Becomes Awkward
Elena Rybakina gestures after beating Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in the women's singles final Saturday in London.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

"Exclusion is fraught with issues," said a former International Olympic Committee executive. That's becoming clearer for Wimbledon. Under pressure from the UK government because of the war in Ukraine, this year's tournament barred players from Russia and Belarus. The WTA and ATP then decided to not award the usual ranking points for Wimbledon. Here's how all that's working out:

  • Photo op: "No one behind this decision wanted to glorify or see the sight of a Russian player raising the trophy so it could be used as propaganda by Vladimir Putin," Jon Wertheim writes in Sports Illustrated. But those photos were delivered to Russia's president when Elena Rybakina became the women's singles champion on Saturday. The 23-year-old was born in Russia, then switched to Kazakhstan for greater financial support in 2018. Her family still lives in Moscow.
  • National pride: "We win Wimbledon," the president of the Russian Tennis Federation told the Ria Novosti news agency. "It's the Russian school, after all," said Shamil Tarpischev. "She played here with us for a long time." The president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation sat in Rybakina's team box for the final and also congratulated her in person and online. "Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina has achieved a historic victory in the extremely prestigious Wimbledon tournament," Kassym-Jomart Tokayev posted.
  • Real-time commentary: Former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe stepped in the issue. “I don't mean to get into politics here, but she is Russian, right?" he said during the broadcast. "It is sort of strange because of this whole ordeal of not allowing the Russians to play." McEnroe then said something about being told to quit talking about the matter, per Yahoo Sports, adding that that was probably just as well.
  • Tiebreaker: Rybakina repeatedly has credited the organization in her new home. "From my side I can only say that I'm representing Kazakhstan," she said, per the BBC. "I didn't choose where I was born."
  • Points taken: Novak Djokovic won the men's singles title Sunday, then dropped four spots in the rankings, to seventh. That's because the rankings are based on the past 52 weeks, per the AP. So the points Djokovic and everybody else gained from last year's Wimbledon were erased, with nothing from this year's tournament to replace them. On the other hand, Emma Raducanu climbed a spot, to No. 10, though she lost in the second round of Wimbledon, per the Guardian. Ons Jabeur, who slipped from No. 2 to No. 5 although she reached the final, said the points loss is a bigger issue for lower-ranked players. Tatjana Maria would have reached a career-high ranking, somewhere in the top 40, after making the semifinals at Wimbledon. Instead, she's 98th.

The president of the All England Club said it considered the government's guidance in making the decisions, per the New York Times, "as we must as a high-profile event and leading British institution." The seriousness of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the widespread global condemnation, Ian Hewitt said, made this year's tournament a "very, very exceptional situation." (More Wimbledon stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.