By Alana Calvert and Eleanor Crooks, PA
Andy Murray is “not supportive” of the UK government’s plan to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon but added there was no “right answer” to the difficult situation.
Wimbledon officials reiterated their position last week, saying that a directive from the government regarding the invasion of Ukraine had left them with no viable alternative but to refuse entries from players from the two countries.
Murray, who is donating all of his prize money this season to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, said the guidance from the government “was not helpful” and could potentially put the families of players at risk.
“I’m not supportive of players getting banned,” the former world number one told reporters in Spain ahead of his first-round match against Dominic Thiem at the Madrid Open.
“My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they’re against the war and against the Russian regime. I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families (as a result).
“I don’t think there’s a right answer.
“I have spoken to some of the Russian players. I’ve spoken to some of the Ukrainian players. I feel really bad for the players who aren’t allowed to play, and I get that it will seem unfair to them.
“But I also know some of the people who work at Wimbledon, and I know how difficult a position they were in.
“I feel for everyone, feel for the players that can’t play, and I don’t support one side or the other.”
There has been some support for Wimbledon’s position, especially from Ukrainians within tennis, but the reaction has been largely negative, with the ATP and WTA both deciding whether to impose penalties.
Rafael Nadal, who has won two of his 21 grand slam singles titles at Wimbledon called the ban “very unfair”.
Speaking ahead of his return to action in the Spanish capital, Nadal told reporters: “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.”
Action against Wimbledon and the preceding grass-court tournaments run by the Lawn Tennis Association could include the removal of ranking points.
Nadal, who is a member of the ATP Player Council, added: “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.
“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.”