‘Unfair’: Tennis stars break the silence on Wimbledon bomb

The tennis world is divided after the shocking decision that relegated Wimbledon to nothing more than a practice tournament.

Players are talking about playing Wimbledon after the decision to strip the Grand Slam of ranking points in response to the tournament banning Russian and Belarusian players after the invasion of Ukraine.

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 event to the status of a high-profile exhibition event.

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The Wimbledon suspension has banned a host of top players, including Daniil Medvedev, the world’s number two men and last year’s semi-finalist, Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka, and two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.

Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens supported the plan not to award points at the All England Club.

Asked about what was said in the talks that led to the WTA reaching their rankings, Stephens said: “Snitches get stitches,” but revealed she supported the plans.

“I think the decision made was the right one,” Stephens said after reaching the second round at Roland Garros.

“I think if you look at the principles and what our tour stands for, discrimination will never be tolerated. That’s exactly what happens.

“As long as that’s in play, there are no points, but we’re not going to choose when that works. You have to stand behind your principles and what the tour stands for, and we are one, right?”

Stephens, who is a member of the WTA council, said there was “a lot of abuse” behind the scenes.

“I think a lot of players and people around were misinformed about what happened and what actually happened in the weeks before a final decision was made,” she continued.

“I think that’s a bit unfair, but it’s the world we live in. We live in social media. We live in people talking and tweeting and all these things. So it is what it is, but I think the decision made was the best for the tour and for the players.”

American John Isner won the longest game in tennis history — an 11-hour, five-minute marathon — at Wimbledon in 2010, before losing 26-24 to Kevin Anderson in the final set of their semifinal four years ago.

“I’m honestly not that excited about Wimbledon at the moment,” Isner said after winning his first round match at the French Open on Sunday.

“Maybe I’ll just come on Saturday and maybe play Monday and see what happens. Because our currency is on tour points.

“We play to keep our ranking high, to rise in our ranking. It puts a lot of pressure on you to try to build or maintain your ranking. You won’t have that this year.

“So I think some players out there are going to be free in a sense, because we don’t have the threat of, you know, not improving your ranking.”

The American said he disagreed with Wimbledon’s ban on players from Russia and Belarus, but was reluctant to criticize the ATP for withholding points.

“I’m not saying that the ATP made a wrong decision, but we would rather play with points. But I definitely support the ATP in the sense that I think these players should play,” he said.

“They have nothing to do with the invasion that is underway. The whole world just wants this to end somehow. It stinks that it hinders the sport.”

Dominic Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, tried to put the matter in perspective.

“I think it’s a difficult decision for everyone, it’s probably very painful for some players,” he said after leaving the French Open on Sunday.

“But we always have to keep the big picture in mind that Wimbledon or our whole tennis world, it’s just really no problem at all.

“The real problem is there in Ukraine and let’s hope peace is restored soon.”

Ons Jabeur, quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last year, said “many players are disappointed” by the decision.

“I wish we had points, if I made it to the quarter finals, for me the main concern is… will they 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 everything, especially some people had finals, semi-finals,” she said.

“So it’s a very, very difficult decision. I’m just going to try to get as many points as possible in the grass season in the other tournaments.”

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