Novak Djokovic Slams Wimbledon Russia Ban As ‘Crazy’

The UK-based tennis tournament announced the ban in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has called a ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing at Wimbledon “crazy”.

His critique on Thursday came a day after the oldest tennis tournament in the world announced the measure, in light of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wimbledon, which is based in the United Kingdom, became the first tennis tournament to prevent individual athletes from the two countries from competing amid the continuing conflict.

Speaking to reporters at the Serbia Open, Djokovic said he “cannot support the decision of Wimbledon”.

“I think it’s crazy,” he added. “When politics interfere with sport, the result is not good.”

He added, however, that he will “always condemn war, I will never support war, being myself a child of war … 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.”

The ban means world number two Daniil Medvedev from Russia and women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will not participate in the June 27-July 10 competition.

Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said on Wednesday, “We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.”

Djokovic has not shied away from controversy during his professional career, most recently during a public standoff with Australian officials over his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The tennis player was also widely criticised in September of 2021 for dining with Milan Jolovic, a former commander of the notorious Drina Wolves paramilitary unit, which participated in the genocide against Bosniaks in Srebrenica, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

Jolovic is celebrated by many Serbs for saving the life of convicted war criminal Ratko Mladic during the war in Bosnia in the early 1990s.

A UN court in 2017 found Mladic guilty of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Before the dinner, Djokovic was also seen singing at a wedding in Bosnia with Bosnia’s Serb member of the presidency, Milorad Dodik, a well-known genocide denier who regularly advocates for the secession of Bosnia’s Serb-run entity, Republika Srpska, from the country.

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