John McEnroe and Tim Henman clash over Wimbledon ranking points row
John McEnroe speaks after the men's singles third round match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on day six of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park - GETTY IMAGES
John McEnroe has called the decision to erase ranking points from Wimbledon a "mistake", arguing that if players strongly support the ban of their Russian and Belarusian counterparts, they should boycott the tournament instead.
Three-time Wimbledon champion McEnroe, who is known for his opinions, got into a lively debate live on Eurosport on the controversial issue with All England Club board member Tim Henman. He questioned the organizers' decision to enforce a ban and expressed confusion over Belarus' support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict.
"I think it was a mistake for Wimbledon to do what they did in the first place, kicking out the Russians and Belarusians," he said, adding, "I don't know how they came up with the Belarusians too, but that is a whole different story.
"That's my opinion, reinforced by the fact that ATP and WTA aren't saying points now, I don't see how that helps players. If the players really think Wimbledon made a big mistake by not allowing the Russians and Belarusians to play players, I think they should have boycotted the tournament."
The last time there was a player boycott at Wimbledon was in 1973, when a number of big names quit Yugoslavia in protest over a political row with Niki Pilic.
Former Britain No.1 Henman unsurprisingly responded by defending the All England Club, saying there were "no winners" in the situation and stressing the Government guidelines on which the ban was based.
"If you go through the circumstances that are in place for Wimbledon, Government guidance is that players are not allowed to play for neutral athletes, as was the case on the Tour," Henman said. "So the question in return: Given its status in the UK, should Wimbledon turn around and say to the Government: 'Actually, we think we know better than you, the Government, so we're going to do something different. ' The reality is that's not going to happen."
McEnroe replied, "I would absolutely do that", but later conceded that "it sounds like a loss to everyone".
The controversial removal of ranking points from Wimbledon has divided opinion on the tour and dominated the conversation at Roland Garros on Monday when some players, including Naomi Osaka, suggested skipping the tournament altogether.
"I think it's very likely that a lot of players won't play Wimbledon because of ranking points," said seven-time major champion and fellow expert Mats Wilander. “Then there are many players who will absolutely never miss Wimbledon. I will respect players who don't leave and I respect Osaka's response that she catches fire when ranking points are at stake."
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