Will Wimbledon be an exhibition event rather than the biggest tennis tournament of the year? – Susan Egelstaff

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IT is ironic that much of the talk during the first week of Roland-Garros focused on a Grand Slam tournament in a few weeks.

And the main question is: Will Wimbledon be an exhibition event this summer, rather than the biggest tennis event on the calendar?

The uproar over the decision to strip Wimbledon of all ranking points came in response to the LTA’s banning of all Russian and Belarusian players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Whichever side you take, there is little contestation, it has turned into an almighty mess.

Wimbledon’s decision to ban players may be harsh on individuals but is understandable. The last thing the All England Club wants is for Daniil Medvedev or one of his compatriots to win, resulting in photos of a Russian player being presented with the trophy by a member of the royal family, as the want the custom.

Wimbledon’s decision, after following government guidelines, was, they said, based on the morality of what is right and wrong as a whole, not just in a sporting context.

The response, then, from the ATP and WTA, to remove all ranking points, has been reckless to say the least. This allowed this conversation to drag on far longer than it otherwise would have, and led many players to rebrand Wimbledon as an “exhibition” tournament.

However, it is difficult to adhere to this point of view. While the 2,000 ranking points offered to the winner are undoubtedly valuable, few players would prioritize the points over the prestige of becoming Wimbledon champions, and of course the millions offered.

As for the impact on fans, it is minimal. As Andy Murray has said, even the staunchest supporters of golf, football and the like have little knowledge or care about the number of ranking points offered to win the Masters, The Open and the World Cup. .

Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka has previously said she is considering skipping Wimbledon because it now looks like an exhibition event, but she is in the minority, with most players agreeing with Murray, who has declared: “Wimbledon will never be an exhibition and will never feel like an exhibition”.

More than anything, however, it only underscores how messed up tennis has been. The fact that much of the first week of the French Open was overshadowed by talk of Wimbledon ranking points, a topic of conversation that has barely entered tennis history, underscores that the ATP and WTA got it wrong.

What also should have been, and almost certainly was not, considered, is what will happen if the war continues next year? Wimbledon, if the ban on Russian and Belarusian players remains in place, will he again be deprived of ranking points? And the year after?

It seems certain that the entry list for Wimbledon, which starts in a month, will not be greatly affected.

And what is also certain is that the atmosphere of the tournament will remain unchanged.

Don’t try to tell me that the nerves felt by any player on match point in the final, or the joy of winning on center court, will be altered one iota by this ranking point decision.

And that’s why politics and sports don’t mix – even if it’s almost impossible to avoid it.

AND SOMETHING ELSE

The Commonwealth Games have no problems looking for these days; from a decline in public interest to an uphill struggle to find host cities, the Games have been at their lowest for some time.

So, with preparations for Birmingham 2022 going relatively well, the last thing the Games needed was a decision that could ultimately end Northern Ireland’s participation in the future.

Last week it was revealed that three members of the Northern Ireland gymnastics team, including one of the stars, Rhys McClenaghan, have been banned from competing at this summer’s Games because they represented Ireland in international competitions.

McClenaghan is the defending Commonwealth champion on pommel horse and his and his team-mates’ dismissal bodes ill for Northern Ireland.

Currently gymnastics is the only sport to disregard the terms of the Belfast Agreement – ​​which regularly allows athletes to compete for Ireland but move to Northern Ireland for the Commonwealth Games – but if this decision was extended to other sports, it would almost entirely end the North. Participation of Ireland.

Boxer Paddy Barnes won two Olympic medals for Ireland as well as two Commonwealth gold medals for Northern Ireland and there are many other examples of Irish athletes flying both the Irish and Northern Irish flag .

The outcry over this move from gymnastics’ governing body suggests there could be a sea change in the coming weeks, but if not, we could sadly see the beginning of the end for Northern Ireland at the Games. of the Commonwealth.


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