Source: ET

Australian Open champion Rafael Nadal has labeled the ban on Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Wimbledon over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine as unfair, saying they are not responsible for the war.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has barred the two countries’ players from competing at this year’s grasscourt major in response to what Russia calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion.

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“I think it’s very unfair to my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues. In that sense it’s not their fault what’s happening in this moment with the war,” 21-times major winner Nadal told reporters at the Madrid Open on Sunday.

“Let’s see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision … well, there is one thing that’s negative, there are things that are clear. When the government imposes some restrictions, you just have to follow them.”

AELTC’s decision has been condemned by both the men’s and women’s tours as well as several other players.

World number one Novak Djokovic, who has also criticized the ban, said on Sunday that he had spoken to Russian players during last week’s Serbia Open and it was tough for them to be excluded from the biggest tournament in the world.

“It’s hard. I understand that there is frustration. ATP is going to, I guess, analyze the whole situation and understand what can be done,” said the Serbian.

“I still stand by my position that I don’t support the decision. I think it’s just not fair, it’s not right … now I guess it’s on player council, the tour management, to really decide along with the players what is the best solution in this situation.”