Adriano Panatta slams Wimbledon for ban on Russian, Belarusian tennis players, says past champs like Federer or Borg could reward the winner if the royal family is “embarrassed”

Adriano Panatta was deeply critical of Wimbledon for choosing to ban Russian and Belarusian players
Adriano Panatta was deeply critical of Wimbledon for choosing to ban Russian and Belarusian players

Former ATP player Adriano Panatta has come out strongly in criticism of Wimbledon for their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the event this year.

The All England Club recently announced that players like Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Victoria Azarenka, among others, will be barred from the tournament due to the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine. The UK's Lawn Tennis Association has already followed suit, while it is expected that Italy will do the same as well.

The ruling, despite the fact that most of the concerned players have declared publicly that they do not support their government, has resulted in Wimbledon copping a lot of flak for their hasty ruling. Speaking in a recent radio interview, as reported by Italian daily newspaper la Repubblica, Panatta echoed a similar sentiment.

One of the driving factors for the decision seems to be that the royal family did not want to risk the possibility of handing over the trophy to a tennis player from Russia or Belarus and being used as "propaganda."

The former French Open winner was of the opinion that the problem could be solved by simply having a tennis legend such as Roger Federer or Rod Laver present the trophy instead of a member of the Monarchy. The Italian pointed out how it is also the norm at Roland Garros, remarking that it is, in fact, the more "civilized" thing to do.

"It's demagoguery. They want to avoid the royal family being embarrassed to possibly reward a Russian. So what? Do as all other tournaments do, which is let old champions reward, like Paris does. Borg, McEnroe, Laver or even Federer. You are spoiled for choice," Panatta said. "It seems to me a very civilized thing [to do], by the way. It would be great."

Regarding the ban, the former World No. 4 was adamant that it did nothing to solve the real problems of the war. Furthermore, Panatta was angered by how someone like Andrey Rublev, who has been one of the most vocal Russians to oppose the war, has been affected as well without consideration.

"But what? The problems of war are not solved [by the ban], it's horrible. They hit [Andrey] Rublev, who wrote "peace" on the camera after playing. But why [do] you have to stop him from playing? It's a violent thing," Panatta said.

"Why use the tennis players to put pressure on Putin, who does not even listen to the rulers of other countries?" - Adriano Panatta

Adriano Panatta is unsure why players had to be the ones to put pressure on Vladmir Putin
Adriano Panatta is unsure why players had to be the ones to put pressure on Vladmir Putin

During the interview, Adriano Panatta also spoke about how unrealistic it was to expect all Russian and Belarusian tennis players to conform to the same public opinion.

In addition to emphasizing how people are entitled to their opinions, the Italian wondered why tennis players were being used as pawns to put pressure on Vladmir Putin when he has shown that he doesn't even listen to other world leaders.

"Medvedev, Rublev and all the others excluded are Russian gentlemen, they are not Russia. They have simply stopped the citizens of the world. As we all are. Everyone can have their own political ideas," Panatta said. "But why use the tennis players to put pressure on Putin, who does not even [listen] to the rulers of other countries?"

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Edited by Nihal Taraporvala
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