Novak Djokovic has hit back at Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players over the invasion of Ukraine, describing the move as “crazy.”
Wimbledon announced on Wednesday that it had barred all Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships due to the invasion.
The grass-court Grand Slam is the first tennis tournament to ban individual competitors from the two countries, meaning men’s world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev from Russia and women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will be banned from the competition.
Djokovic, who grew up in war-torn Serbia, said the athletes had nothing to do with the ongoing conflict.
“I will always condemn war; I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters after narrowly beating compatriot Laslo Dere at the Serbia Open on Wednesday.
“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 All England Lawn Tennis Club’s decision has been criticized by the ATP and WTA tours.
The move is the first time players have been banned from the tournament on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War II era, when German and Japanese players were excluded.
The All England Club said it would “consider and respond accordingly” if circumstances change between now and June.
Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina on Thursday expressed her opinion on Wimbledon’s decision.
“We don’t want them banned completely,” Svitolina said. “If players don’t speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them.
“We just want them to speak up, if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government. This is for me the main point.
“If they didn’t choose, didn’t vote for this government, then it’s fair they should be allowed to play and compete.”