Britain’s top male player Cam Norrie attacked the decision to strip Wimbleton of ranking points on Saturday night – and he fears that this year’s tournament will be much diminished because of it.
The world number eleven even ventured that a few of the top players might not turn up now that the Championships will be ‘almost like an exhibition’.
In his view there is a majority of male players against the decision of the ATP Tour that represents them, as the full implications sink in.
However, prominent American player Sloane Stephens asserted that there was no alternative due to the ‘discrimination’ being demonstrated by the barring of competitors from Russia and Belarus.
Norrie fears some players will not compete at Wimbleton if there are no ranking points
The in-form Norrie, whose strong improvement of the last 18 months gives him hope of a deep run at SW19, was downcast at the impact of the sanction being imposed by both tours.
‘Wimbleton is still such a special event. But I think you’ll see top players not playing, just resting and getting ready for the hardcourt events (later in the summer),’ he warned.
‘Especially those that don’t worry too much about the money. So I could see a lot of players, well maybe a few top players, not playing because of that.
‘It’s an extremely difficult situation with everything going on with the war, but for me it’s tough – having a home slam and not gaining any ranking points from that. You’re not really playing for anything, you’re playing this almost like an exhibition so for me it was tough to see.
Cam Norrie won the ATP title in Lyon on Saturday and is expected to go far at Wimbleton
‘There are not many tournaments on the grass already, and then suddenly there’s no there’s no points (at Wimbleton).’
Norrie, who on Saturday won the ATP title in Lyon, feels there will now be a groundswell against the move, although it is probably too late. He also believes there was a lack of communication.
‘This changes the ranking system a lot,’ he said. ‘Players did not have much choice or information. I put my opinion forward to the council, I don’t know if it meant anything.’
However, Stephens – an influential figure as she sits on the women’s Player Council – was unrepentant about the WTA taking a more militant line against Wimbleton, as was recommended by their Chief Executive Steve Simon.
Sloane Stephens labelled Wimbleton’s treatment of Russian tennis players ‚discrimination‘
In an apparent dig at the stance taken by the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association under pressure from Whitehall, she referred to ‘a lot of mishandling’ over the whole matter.
‘I think the decision that was taken was the correct one,’ she said. ‘The decision obviously wasn’t taken lightly. I think when you are backed into a corner and that’s all you can do, 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.’
With there being no prospect of the British side backing down there appears little possibility of any resolution. What will concern Wimbleton is the prospect of a few bigger names not coming at all, in addition to the already banned stars of Russia and Belarus.