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Sloan Stephens backs move to strip Wimbledon of ranking points

American tennis player Sloane Stephens

FILE - American tennis player Sloane Stephens. Photo: Xinhua

Published May 22, 2022

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Paris — Former US Open champion Sloane Stephens said she supports the decision to strip Wimbledon of ranking points in response to the tournament banning Russian and Belarusian players following the invasion of Ukraine.

The move by the sport's main tours, the ATP and WTA, to withhold points for Wimbledon — which runs from June 27-July 10 — threatens to reduce the Grand Slam to the status of a high-profile exhibition event.

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"I think the decision that was taken was the correct one," Stephens said Sunday after beating Germany's Jule Niemeier in the first round at Roland Garros.

"I think that there is a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that the press are not aware of, and I think there has been a lot of mishandling of how everything was handled."

WTA chief executive Steve Simon said that his organisation believed "that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalised solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries."

"Obviously I support our CEO, I support my council, I support the players. The decision that's been taken obviously wasn't taken lightly," said Stephens, a French Open runner-up in 2018.

"I think when you are backed into a corner and that's all you can do, I think that's why the decision was made, and I support it."

Wimbledon's ban has ruled out a swathe of top players, including men's world number two Daniil Medvedev and last year's women's semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus as well as two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka.

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But Wimbledon chiefs at the All England Club branded the move by the ATP and WTA as "disproportionate".

Thiem looks at 'big picture'

Casper Ruud, who has won seven of his eight titles on clay, said it was unfair on grass-court specialists that they cannot earn ranking points at Wimbledon.

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"It's tough to mix politics with sport," Ruud said after winning Saturday's Geneva Open final.

"Wimbledon is not where I make most of my points, so for me, it's doesn't matter too much when you think about the points but for other players it's of course unfair that they cannot even get the chance."

Dominic Thiem, the 2020 US Open champion, sought to put the issue into perspective.

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"I think it's a tough decision for everybody, for some players it is probably very painful," he said after exiting the French Open on Sunday.

"But we always have to keep in mind the big picture that Wimbledon or all our tennis world, it's just really no problem at all.

"The real problem is there in Ukraine and let's hope that there is peace very soon again."

Ons Jabeur, a quarter-finalist at Wimbledon last year, said "a lot of players are disappointed" by the decision.

"I wish we had points, if I did quarter-final, for me the main concern is... are they going to keep the last year's points, how are they going to replace them, because it's not fair if we drop all the points without us defending anything, especially some people had finals, semi-finals," she said.

"So it is very, very tough decision. I'm just going to try to grab as many points as I can in the grass season in the other tournaments."

AFP

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