When asked about the decision to not award ranking points at Wimbledon this year, four-time major champion Naomi Osaka said the tournament will now be « more like an exhibition. »
Other players have responded with anger, confusion and thoughts of skipping Wimbledon altogether. The announcement, made on Friday by the WTA and ATP, was in response to All England Club’s ban on players from Russia and Belarus.
The move will have major repercussions for reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, who will not be able to defend 2,000 points, and will likely then lose his No. 1 ranking. Defending women’s champion Ashleigh Barty has retired, but other players who made a deep run in Wimbledon in 2021 could lose a substantial amount of points as well.
At the French Open this week, Djokovic, Osaka, and some of the sport’s biggest names gave their opinions on this unprecedented chain of events. French player Benoit Paire even took the rare step of calling his own news conference following his first-round loss to ensure he had a platform to speak his mind on the polarizing topic.
Here, some excerpts of what they have said to the media this week:
Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
20-time major champion (six at Wimbledon), world No. 1
« Of course on a personal, individual level, I have been very negatively affected by that. But I have been speaking with management and the president of ATP and some of the council members actually in the last few days.
« I think collectively I’m glad that players got together with ATP, the governing body of the men’s tennis, and showed to the Grand Slam that … when there is a mistake happening, and there was from the Wimbledon side, then we have to show that there is going to be some consequences.
« It’s hard, really. … It’s kind of, I would say, lose-lose situation for everyone. » More on Djokovic’s comments.
Naomi Osaka (Japan)
Four-time major champion
« I would love to go just to get some experience on the grass court, but at the same time, for me, it’s kind of like — I don’t want to say pointless, no pun intended, but I’m the type of player that gets motivated by, like, seeing my ranking go up or like, you know, stuff like that.
« So I think the intention was really good, but the execution is kind of all over the place…
« I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it’s more like an exhibition. I know this isn’t true, right? But my brain just feels that way. Whenever I think something is like an exhibition, I just can’t go at it 100%.
« I didn’t even make my decision yet, but I’m leaning more towards not playing given the current circumstances, but, you know, that might change. » More on Osaka’s comments.
2020 French Open champion, world No. 1
« I’m OK with playing without points; I’m OK playing with points. But for me it’s more the political side of things, because, you know, Poland is supporting Ukrainians, and the war is right next to my country. So Basically, it’s harder on me from that perspective. I don’t really mind about points. For me, you know, it’s Wimbledon, for sure. It’s one of the most important tournaments in the season.
« But there is war going on. So I look at it more from that way than, you know, what’s gonna happen on rankings. »
2021 Wimbledon finalist
« I think it’s super tough and unfair and [a] bad decision. … But I suppose there’s not much you can do about it. I still want to go and compete there, that’s for sure, because I’m not playing because of the points, not even because of the money. I just, of course, I want to win and I want to succeed and I want to maybe get the trophy because I was quite close last year.
« But that doesn’t change… that I think it’s completely wrong, the decision, not even the one from Wimbledon, I think more the one from WTA.
« I think they should keep at least 50% from the last year or all the points. Because, I mean, it was the same like when it was COVID, if there [were] no tournaments you kept the points for like one year or two years almost [for] some players.
« So I think they didn’t really help anybody. Like, I mean, they punished Wimbledon maybe. But I think most of the players, if you love the game you’re still going to go and play. So I think they mainly punished the players, which I didn’t quite get… »
« As a Ukrainian, I think that I should show as much support for my country as I can, and I think it was the right decision from Wimbledon just to show some support from the tennis world. Of course, I didn’t like the decision about playing with no points. I hope that, I don’t know, I just hope that something will change in the tennis world in the mind of the players and in the mind of our association. …
« I think my personal opinion is that as we see a lot of sports, they banned Russia, a number of Russian players and in tennis it’s only one tournament. I honestly think that this is not a very big price for them to pay or to I think it’s not too much, it’s not much, really, it’s just one tournament.
« But, I don’t know, for them they feel like they are losing their job. And I also feel many bad things, I feel a lot of terrible things and I think compared to that, losing a chance to play in one tournament is nothing. »
Benoit Pair (France)
« We are going to play a tournament without any points. When some people had COVID, we didn’t say, ‘Oh, okay, we should cancel the tournament altogether.’ But then we have three or four Russian players, including Medvedev, and we are rallying against Wimbledon. I think it’s a pity, because if we were to listen to all the players, players do not understand this decision. Ninety-nine percent of players , they want to have points and to play the tournament as it was before.
« So I want to know if ATP wants to defend players or Russia. …
« I will go there to get my prize money, as I would for an exhibition tournament. But the question is: Why didn’t they talk with upstream players? Yes, when they say there was a council which voted, nobody told us about If it’s a war between ATP and Wimbledon, it’s not nice for us, because we want to play normally.
« I’m sorry for Russia and Russians, but they are the ones causing all the trouble. And all the ATP players are actually paying the price. Medvedev will be No. 1 worldwide. This is absurd. We should actually take position for all the players in the world, and it’s the opposite that is being done right now.
2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist
« I don’t agree with either [decision]. I think first of all, if you have a pro competition, that everybody should be competing. I completely understand the politics and the situation they’re in.
« But again, if you have a tennis tournament that’s supposed to have the best athletes in the world, it shouldn’t matter where you’re from, this and that, you know? So everybody should be competing.
« I also don’t agree with the ATP to take out all the points. The most guys it’s affecting are the guys in the top rankings. Obviously Novak, me, Hubi [Hurkacz], [Matteo] Berrettini, who is not playing here, we’re going to drop a lot.
« So it’s difficult. I think they could have gone with it a different way, maybe keep 50 percent like they have in the past or some kind of fairness. But even a guy like [2021 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Marton] Fucsovics is going to drop out of the top 100, you know.
2017 US Open champion, member of WTA’s Player Council
« I think the decision that was taken was the correct one. I think that there are 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 .
« I mean, obviously I support our CEO, I support my council, I support the players. The decision that’s been taken obviously wasn’t taken lightly. 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.
« I can tell you that we worked really hard to try to make sure that everyone had a fair chance to play, and at the end of the day that’s not what happened. …
« I think when you look at the principles and what our tour stands for, discrimination will never be tolerated. That’s exactly what’s happening. As long as that’s in play, there are no points. »
2021 US Open champion, world No. 2
« When I read the FAQ of ATP, why they made this decision, because they are explaining themself, they are not just saying, ‘OK, we decided that,’ I found it very logical what they say at least. This is what I didn’t find in Wimbledon explanations.
« I’m not saying which decision is right, but at least so far in explaining their decisions, I found ATP just more logical and more consecutive. …
« I’d be really happy to play Wimbledon. I love Wimbledon. I love playing on grass. I will play on grass after Roland Garros.
« But if I cannot, I mean, [I’m] just going to prepare for next tournaments, and, you know, just follow what’s happening there. There are no points, I become No. 1, well, great for me. If there are points, I cannot become No. 1, I’m going to be gutted. It is what it is. I cannot change some decisions, both about ATP and Wimbledon. »
2017 French Open champion
« It has to be fair to everyone. Of course we players can say our opinions, but I feel like still we are not the ones who are making the decision. There are of course a lot of rumors and talks, but I think maybe they are going to change their mind. I’m not sure about points. But I think a lot of things may happen within the next, like, week or two weeks.
« But, I mean, if there are no points, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do. … Because I feel like it’s a little bit unfair to play the tournament when there are no points and you kind of , you can win the tournament and then you don’t move one spot up in the ranking.
« But of course it’s very prestigious tournament, so still, I mean, of course I love Wimbledon and I want to play it. Hopefully, I don’t know, something will change within the next few weeks. »
2018 Wimbledon semi-finalist
« I don’t know how that’s going to affect the field. It’s going to have a different feel to it. You know, I don’t personally agree with the decision to ban the players from Russia and Belarus. But the players, we would also prefer to be playing for points, so I — but I get it. I’m not saying the ATP has made a wrong decision, but we would prefer to be playing with points.
« But I definitely stand with the ATP in the sense that I believe these players should be playing. They don’t have anything to do with the invasion going on. You know, we all just want this, the whole world just wants this to come to an end somehow. It stinks that it’s interfered with sports, but that’s the way of the world now. …
« I mean, it’s still Wimbledon, right? Someone is going to get crowned the champion. They are just not going to get 2000 points. It’s definitely a different feel. I don’t know how I’m going to adjust to it. Right now, truthfully, I’m not that stoked about Wimbledon. I might just show up on Saturday and maybe I will play Monday and see what happens. Because, you know, our currency on tour is points. »
« Wimbledon is still such a special event. But I think you’ll see a lot of top players not playing, just resting and getting ready for the hard-court events. Especially those that don’t worry too much about the money.
« Obviously it’s an extremely difficult situation with everything going on with the war. This changes the ranking systems a lot. They’ve taken away almost 6,000, 5,000 points from the whole system out of nowhere, so it’s gonna interfere with the rankings and then a lot of players that did well at Wimbledon last year are going to be dropping. »