Grand slam: On ATP and WTA stripping of Wimbledon ranking points

Moves by the ATP and WTA — governing bodies of men’s and women’s tennis tours — to strip Wimbledon of its primary currency, the all-important ranking points, for the 2022 edition represent the harshest rebuke to the autonomous overreach by the oldest Grand Slam event in declining entries from Russian and Belarusian players. The ATP, on Friday, said the move was to protect the “integrity of the sport”, which was built upon “merit-based tournament entry” (through rankings) and a level playing field. The WTA concurred, basing its decision on its foundational principle of equal opportunity, championed by the legendary Billie Jean King. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) followed suit by removing points from the Junior and Wheelchair competitions. As a result, the most coveted tennis tournament in the world is set to be reduced to an exhibition event, barring a rethink from the feuding parties. A large-scale player drop-out may not materialise, for Wimbledon holds too much allure, both in terms of prestige and prize money. But the saga is sure to upend the sport’s pecking orders. Tennis rankings work over a rolling 52-week period, updated by adding points earned in the previous week and subtracting those from the equivalent week in the previous year. Now, World No.1 Novak Djokovic’s 2000 points for winning the 2021 edition will be removed without any addition this year, causing severe disruptions in the upper echelons of men’s tennis.

More broadly, the fiasco is likely to end up leaving everyone bruised. Wimbledon has rightly been penalised for triggering the controversy by unfairly targeting Russians and Belarusians for the actions of their political leaders, despite the likes of World No.2 Daniil Medvedev and World No.7 Andrey Rublev publicly calling for peace. But the pushback by the ATP, WTA and ITF will unfortunately inflict collateral damage on scores of players, especially those in the lower rungs, otherwise eligible to earn points. While the ATP has correctly stressed that an acceptable solution could have been found if Wimbledon had not chosen to act unilaterally based on “informal guidance” from the British government, it is a fact that tennis’s seven governing bodies — ATP, WTA, ITF and the four Majors — mostly work at cross-purposes and act in self-interest. The ATP itself has not walked the talk, continuing to hand out a disproportionately high number of ranking points to its flagship multi-nation team competition ATP Cup despite the tournament being a closed-door event. Wimbledon has, for now, stopped at expressing its disappointment and reserved its position, with the ongoing French Open providing fans with a welcome distraction. But any attempt to further this powerplay by driving another wedge, instead of charting out a progressive path, will only splinter the sport more.

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Printable version | May 24, 2022 10:30:40 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/grand-slam/article65453789.ece