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Sloane Stephens on Wimbledon points saga: WTA was ‘backed into a corner’

(Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

Athletes are speaking out after the WTA and ATP announced Wimbledon would be stripped of its ranking points. The decision came after the Grand Slam banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing due to Russias’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I think the decision that was taken was the correct one,” Sloane Stephens, a member of the WTA’s Player Council, said of the points decision. “I think that there are a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that the press are not aware of, and I think there has been a lot of mishandling of how everything was handled.”

Stephens specifically took issue with the tournament’s decision to bar players from competition, which according to the American left the WTA with just one option: to strip the ranking points.

“I think when you are backed into a corner and that’s all you can do, I think that’s why the decision was made, and I support it,” Stephens said. “I can tell you that we worked really hard to try to make sure that everyone had a fair opportunity to play, and at the end of the day that’s not what happened.

“I think when you look at the principles and what our tour stands for, discrimination will never be tolerated. That’s exactly what’s happening. As long as that’s in play, there are no points.”

Naomi Osaka has also offered her opinion on the move, telling reporters she may not compete in the major if there are no points to be won.

“I feel like if I play Wimbledon without points, it’s more like an exhibition,” she said. “I know this isn’t true, right? But my brain just feels that way. Whenever I think something is like an exhibition, I just can’t go at it 100 percent.”

Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion, is also unsure if she will compete in the grass court Grand Slam if there is no opportunity to accrue ranking points.

“I mean, if there are no points, I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do,” she said. “Because I feel like it’s a little bit unfair to play the tournament when there are no points and you kind of, you can win the tournament and then you don’t move one spot up in the ranking. So it’s a little bit strange.”

Karolina Pliskova, the 2021 Wimbledon finalist, still plans to play in the tournament but is critical of the WTA’s decision.

“So I think they didn’t really help anybody. Like, I mean, they punished Wimbledon maybe. But I think most of the players, if you love the game you’re still going to go and play. So I think they mainly punished the players, which I didn’t quite get,” the Czech star said.

Ukrainian player Lesia Tsurenko supports Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian competitors, saying she wants to show as much support for her country as possible.

“I think my personal opinion is that as we see a lot of sports, they banned Russia, a number of Russian players and in tennis it’s only one tournament. I honestly think that this is not a very big price for them to pay or to accept. I think it’s not too much, it’s not much, really, it’s just one tournament,” she said.

World No.1 Iga Swiatek said she is more focused on “the political side of things” with her country of Poland supporting Ukraine in the war.

“I don’t really mind about points. For me, you know, it’s Wimbledon, for sure. It’s one of the most important tournaments in the season,” said Swiatek. “But there is war going on. So I look at it more from that way than, you know, what’s gonna happen on rankings.”

Wimbledon is set to kick off on June 27 at the All England Club.