Novak Djokovic has branded the decision to ban all Russian and Belarusian players from competing in this year’s Wimbledon as “crazy”.
In response to the invasion of Ukraine, Wimbledon organisers announced on Wednesday all Russian and Belarusian players would be excluded from contesting the Grand Slam, which begins on June 27th.
The controversial call has been met with heavy backlash, primarily because it means men’s world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will be barred from the tournament.
Addressing the bans following his win over Laslo Dere at the Serbia Open on Wednesday, Djokovic weighed in declaring politics should never interfere with sports.
“I will always condemn war; I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters.
“I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history.
“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy.
“When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
The move means Wimbledon will become the first tournament to ban individual competitors from the two countries.
Since the war began in February, individual Russian and Belarusian players hadn’t been banned from any events on the ATP or WTA tour, but were allowed to compete if their national flag wasn’t on display in tournament graphics.
However, both nations have been banned from competing in team events, including the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
Currently, players from both nations are allowed to enter next month’s French Open.
While Medvedev, who briefly took the No. 1 mantle from Djokovic earlier this year, and former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka headline the players set to be barred, several other Russian and Belarusian players in the top 50 will likely also be affected.
World No. 8 Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov (No. 25) and Aslan Karatsev (No. 33) would be the other high-profile Russian players booted out of the men’s draw.
In the women’s draw, Belarusian star Aryna Sabalenka (No. 6) along with Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 15) and Daria Kasatkina (No. 23) among several other top 50 players will not be able to feature.
Last month, Medvedev was asked about how Russians were being banned from other sports like international football and said he hoped tennis wouldn’t follow suit.
“We never know (if Russians will be banned) – some sports made this decision, especially I would think the team sports,” he told BBC Sport.
“Tennis is probably one of the most individual sports we have in the world. Everyone’s living in so many different places.
“There’s always a possibility, but I hope not.”
Wimledon said it will consider reversing the ban “if circumstances change materially between now and June.”