Rafael Nadal Speaks Out Against Wimbledon’s Ban On Russian Players - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Rafael Nadal Speaks Out Against Wimbledon’s Ban On Russian Players

“It’s not their fault what’s happening in the war.”

As war in Ukraine continues to escalate, countries around the world are looking to show their allegiance and support for the country while simultaneously condemning Russia’s actions. It’s led companies to cut ties with Russia completely, while governments have imposed sanctions. But in the world of sport, which has long been seen as a global stage which serves to unite people from different countries and backgrounds, while also sharing new perspectives, actions taken to punish Putin’s blatant disregard for humanity and suffering has seen a different approach taken across various sporting codes and competitions. For the world of tennis in which Wimbledon stands as one of the most prestigious events in the professional calendar, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced a ban on Russian and Belarussian players at the tournament. 

The AELTC said in a statement that these players would not be permitted to compete due to “the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression” from Russia in Ukraine. In a statement, the club added: “Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”

The decision was met with mixed criticism, with some players applauding the stance taken by Wimbledon and others believing sport should be separate from politics. For Rafael Nadal, it’s a decision that he believes is “very unfair”. Ahead of his return to the Madrid Open following injury, Nadal explained, “I think it’s very unfair (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war.”

It’s a standpoint that the ATP and WTA both share, with both deciding whether to impose penalties against Wimbledon for its position. Action could include the removal of ranking points for both Wimbledon and the preceding grass-court tournaments. As a member of the ATP Player Council, Nadal said, “The 2,000 points, whenever we go to the grand slams, they are really important and we have to go to those tournaments. So we will have to see the measures that we take.”

Nadal added, “At the end of the day, what happens in our game, it doesn’t have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine.”

Nadal will return to the court for the first time in six weeks since suffering a stress fracture of a rib at Indian Wells in March where he lost to Taylor Fritz in the final. He’s having to put in the work both on the court and in the strength and conditioning department just in the hopes of returning to peak fitness by the time of the French Open. “Talking about the injury, I’m recovered, I feel good. Talking about my tennis game and preparations, it’s a completely different story,” said Nadal.

“Anyone who has broken a rib knows how limiting it is, very painful, especially the first weeks. I wasn’t able to do anything without a lot of difficulties, even to fall asleep because of the pain. I have improved compared to when I came here but I still have up and downs because it’s been a long time without being in these kind of situations and it’s going to be a difficult week, for sure.”

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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