Rafael Nadal insists he will stand up for Russian tennis players banned from Wimbledon

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Rafael Nadal leads the ATP Player Council. (Photo by Giampiero Sposito/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal says that he will continue to oppose Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players and will stand up for the rights of those who are barred from competing in tennis’ most prestigious tournament due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The Lawn Tennis Association declared in April that it would be following the precedent set by other organisation including FIFA, UEFA, and Eurovision by banning Russians from competing in high profile international events, in order to render the Russian state a sporting and cultural outcast following president Vladimir Putin’s devastating invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

The United Nations estimates that over six million people have fled Ukraine since the assault began across land, air, and sea in late February, while cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kherson have been decimated by shelling. Belarussian players have also been banned due to their nation’s practical support for the invasion.

A statement from the All England Club released at the time read: ‘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.’

Nadal, however, believes that the war has nothing to do with the players who will not be allowed to take part, including Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Aryna Sabalenka. Governing body the ATP also opposes the ban, and the Spaniard says he will be using his role as ATP Player Council representative alongside Roger Federer to stand up for the rights of Russians.

‘The only thing we can do is be in touch with Wimbledon and the rest of the ATP management to do the things that work better to protect every single player in the ATP,’ the 21-time Grand Slam winner said. ‘At the end, that’s our job: to protect the players and to work [to] the benefit of every single player that we are representing.’

Late month, Nadal referred to the ban as ‘very unfair’ and revealed his opposition to it.

‘I think it’s very unfair [on] my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues,’ the Spaniard said. ‘It’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war. 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.’

The Labour MP Chris Bryant criticised both Nadal and Federer, suggesting that the pair are implicitly backing Vladimir Putin’s war by opposing the ban on Russian at Wimbledon.

‘Federer and Nadal should come clean’, he said. ‘Do they want Vladimir Putin to fail or don’t they care? The men’s tour are behaving appallingly. It’s like they haven’t heard what is happening in Ukraine or don’t care.’ 

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