“The greatest defeat in the history of sports.” Djokovic and Serbian media stand up for the Russians
On Wednesday, April 20, the British Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) issued an official statement in conjunction with the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC): Russian and Belarusian tennis players will not be able to participate in tournaments under their auspices in 2022. Including the Grand Slam Tournament on grass – Wimbledon.
The decision applies to both adult and junior competitions. Apart from Wimbledon, a few more tournaments will be held in June: ATP-500 in London, WTA250 in Birmingham and WTA-500 in Eastbourne. Russian and Belarusian tennis players won’t be able to take part in them too. As a result, 17 players from the top 100 in the men’s and women’s rankings, including Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Arina Sobolenko, will not participate in the tournaments on grass.
But not the whole tennis world supported the Wimbledon decision. In Serbia, where just now is taking place an ATP-250 tournament in Belgrade, stood up for the Russian tennis players especially actively.
Serbia’s No. 7 seed Miomir Kecmanovic, who has defeated Richard Gasquet, John Millman, and Djokovic in the quarterfinals, said at the post-match press conference, “Of course I blame what’s happening in the world right now, but I don’t think Medvedev, Rublev, and the other players are guilty of it. I don’t think it’s a fair decision.
Australia’s John Millman, who lost in the second round to Serbia’s Kecmanovic in Belgrade, also spoke out on his social media: “I feel Ukraine would be better off if Wimbledon donated all its profits to support it instead of banning Russian and Belarusian tennis players from playing there.”
Novak Djokovic, the world ranking and seeding leader at the tournament in Belgrade himself, told reporters that he is against the decision to suspend Russian tennis players from participating in tournaments in Great Britain.
Former Yugoslav tennis player and famous coach Nikola Pilic is indignant with the decision to suspend Russian and Belarusian tennis players. Such famous Russian tennis players as Michael Stich, Novak Djokovic, Ernest Gulbis, Anastasija Sevastova and others passed through his academy: “It’s just a shame! Was there something similar when the Americans went into Iraq and killed over half a million locals? Were American athletes banned from playing at that point?”
The well-known Serbian publication Sportklub published a column in which its author Aleksandar Miletic writes that sports have been equated with politics: “This is the greatest defeat in the history of sports! Russian athletes are being asked to denounce their country’s politics so that they can compete at the international level. In other words, they are required to engage in politics. That is completely contrary not only to the essence of sport but also to the Olympic Charter.
According to the author, Russian athletes have been deprived of their right to participate in sport by being discriminated against for political reasons: “Three decades ago, Yugoslav athletes suffered because of Security Council Resolution 757, and Slobodan Milosevic was the target. However, it turned out that such shots never hit the target. It is a crime to deter tens of thousands of young people in their pursuit of sports. We are not only talking about the top athletes who miss some unique moments in their careers, but we are also talking about children – juniors, beginners – who will need someone to explain why they are being branded so harshly.”
Miletich concluded by recalling an episode from a documentary about the boxer Muhammad Ali, who was banned from competing for several years (1967-1970) because he refused to go to the war in Vietnam: “There was a phrase in the film, ‘Can you imagine the loss to art if someone had banned Michelangelo or Rembrandt from creating in their four most fruitful years… Well, that’s exactly what happened to Ali…”
Similarly, we might wonder about US Open tennis champion Daniil Medvedev, who might be knocking on Wimbledon’s doors in full force. Or for Novak Djokovic, who for some other reason was eliminated from some major competition at a time when he could have been crowned the best tennis player of all time. It’s not just these top athletes who lose out because of political decisions, but also the audience and, if you like, humanity – because they are deprived of the performance of the greatest sports artists.”