‘It was a mistake!’ – Tim Henman and John McEnroe clash in heated row over Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian players

TENNIS legend John McEnroe and former British No. 1 Tim Henman have clashed in a row over the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian nationals from competing at Wimbledon this year.

Wimbledon banned all Russian and Belarusian athlete's from competing at this years event following Russia's invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

In response, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), World Tennis Association (WTA), and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points for the year.

Despite it now being in essence an exhibition event, Henman, a board member of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, said he did not expect it to impact on players entering the tournament.

Asked to comment on former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka saying she was "leaning" towards not playing via Eurosport, Henman said: "She is speaking for herself.

"I think the vast majority of players would look at Wimbledon and the history and prestige and tradition of the event.


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"The idea that she could have the opportunity of winning a Wimbledon title and would turn that down I was surprised to hear, but that’s her prerogative."

However, seven-time singles grand slam winner McEnroe took the opposing side in the argument, labelling Wimbledon's action as a "mistake."

He said: "I think it was a mistake by Wimbledon to do what they did, and it’s compounded by the fact the ATP and the WTA say there are no points.

"If the players really believe that Wimbledon made a big mistake by not allowing Russian and Belarusian players to play then they should have boycotted the tournament."

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This triggered a back and forth between the pair, with Henman saying he felt sympathy for the players who were unable to compete, admitting there were "no winners" from the whole situation.

He explained Wimbledon would not defer from the course of the UK government and wouldn't be seen to facilitate the "propaganda" which comes with allowing Russian athletes to compete.

McEnroe concluded his side of the debate by suggesting players such as World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev wouldn't be able to express their dissension due to the threat of prison for their families.

He said: "If you are a Russian or Belarusian player and your parents and family live in Russia and they have a new law that says they can spend 15 years in prison if they say anything negative about what’s happening, would you say anything if you were Daniil Medvedev?

"It sounds like a lose-lose situation for everybody."

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