ATP rep John Millman slams Wimbledon’s ‘unilateral’ Russian-Belarusian player ban


A member of the 12-man ATP players’ council which also features legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, Millman said negotiations with other tennis authorities were ongoing, but wouldn’t predict where they would land.

Another phone hook up was set for Tuesday night in Paris.

After a French Open first-round exit to rising American Sebastian Korda on Tuesday, Millman stressed the infighting in tennis must be kept in perspective amid the broader tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.

But he called on the UK government to come clean on the precise advice given to Wimbledon.

“I heard whispers, ‘oh, it’s coming from the government’,” Millman said.

“If it’s coming from the government, get the British government to say ‘no we’re banning them, we don’t want them to play’.

“Then I’d feel sorry for Wimbledon that they’re being pushed into a corner.”

Rafael Nadal, who faces Frenchman Corentin Moutet in the second round on Thursday morning (AEST), is also on the ATP’s player council.Credit:Getty

Millman first entered the debate last month when he argued that if Wimbledon really wanted to make a difference to Ukraine, it should donate this year’s profits to the war effort.

But he was challenged by one Ukrainian player, Marta Kostyuk, who said it was a “pretty selfish” view.

In launching his broadside against Wimbledon and calling for unity between the sport’s bodies, the 32-year-old concedes he is likely to be “absolutely murdered on social media” .

Millman was so angered by Wimbledon’s unilateral move, he pondered that if tournaments were able to make arbitrary judgements, he, too, could feel their wrath.

‘It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on. There are frustrations everywhere.’

John Millman

“I’m getting older and there’s probably not going to be so many opportunities to do it, so I think I will (play) but maybe I’ll get banned for saying this stuff,” he said.

“I mean, you can, right? That’s what I’ve had a problem with from the very start … making unilateral decisions – that’s the problem.”

The bold move to strip rankings was mirrored by the WTA and International Tennis Federation, which regulates other tennis events such as wheelchair competition.

“We allowed our player reps and the tournament reps to make that decision. We allowed that,” Millman said.

“Obviously there’s a whole lot of options on the table but the point of the matter is you can’t make unilateral decisions and exclude players. It’s discrimination.”

Despite his outspoken views, and as some other players consider playing low-profile tournaments instead offering ranking points, Millman will still don the Wimbledon whites.

“I would love there to be points at Wimbledon, I want players to be able to play the biggest tournament and have points,” he said.

“I love Wimbledon, the greatest moment of my life was qualifying for Wimbledon the first time many years ago.

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“It’s a beautiful place, I love it, but I don’t like how they went about making the decision. And if it is pushed by the UK government, get the UK government to go and tell them.”

Millman indicated recent turmoil in tennis was indicative of a trend that began during the pandemic when the sport’s four pillars – the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open – put their own objectives first.

He cited recent decisions to change the dates of the French and Australian Opens – as happened in Melbourne last year when Australia was in the grip of pandemic lockdowns – as moves which hurt ATP and WTA tour events.

The Davis Cup stalwart said the current structure of tennis was clearly failing with the various bodies too often pulling in different directions.

“I’m against the whole structure in general. We’ve got to start working together and that’s not happening,” Millman said.

“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you sit on. There are frustrations everywhere.”

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