Olympic champion Alexander Zverev on Friday joined the chorus of criticism against the decision by the organisers of Wimbledon to ban tennis players from Russia and Belarus at this year’s Grand Slam tournament in London.
On Wednesday, Wimbledon banned them due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Belarus is seen to be an ally of Russia’s with Russian troops crossing their border into Ukraine in the February 24 invasion.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, said it was acting to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible”.
However, the 25-year-old Zverev, currently ranked third in the world, said he sees “no reason why” players from Russia or Belarus “shouldn’t play in Wimbledon”.
At the moment, players representing the two countries are allowed to take part in ATP and WTA events but are barred from competing under the name or flag of their countries.
Zverev says “it’s absolutely correct” that Russian and Belarussian teams are banned from tennis competitions.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has already barred both countries from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.
“That is something against Russia, I understand that,” added Zverev as he prepares for next week’s ATP tournament in Munich.
“I think we are all against the war, what is happening in Ukraine is inhumane and shouldn’t be happening.”
Zverev was born in Hamburg to Russian parents.
He stood up for his close friend, Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who on Thursday blasted the decision by Wimbledon officials as “complete discrimination”.
The decision means Rublev as well as players like compatriot and world number two Daniil Medvedev, plus women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, sit out the June 27-July 10 tournament.
“I have spoken to Andrey,” said Zverev, who pointed out Rublev has already taken a stand against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
At the Dubai tournament in February, Rublev had scribbled “No war please” on a courtside TV camera after a victory.
“He (Rublev) is also ready to help Ukraine,” added Zverev.
“He is ready to oppose the war, he is ready to send his prize money to Ukraine.”
Zverev’s comments come after world number one Novak Djokovic, called the Wimbledon ban “crazy”.
ATP and WTA organisers branded the move “unfair” and “very disappointing”.
Likewise, US tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King, a founder of the WTA in 1973, also spoke out against the decision.
“I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament, simply because of their nationality,” she said.
Ukraine’s top female player Elina Svitolina had said she feels that Russian and Belarusian players who do speak out against the invasion “should be allowed” to compete at Wimbledon.