John Millman has condemned Wimbledon’s ‘unilateral’ decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players amid an extraordinary, impassioned attack on the governance of world tennis.
The veteran Australian stalwart, a Player Council representative for the ATP men’s tour, also called on the British government to reveal whether it was actually behind the decision, not Wimbledon.
Millman, who spoke emotionally about the ‘disgusting’ conflict in Ukraine, also said players’ views were being ignored amid a lack of consultation and communication.
Speaking after his defeat to Sebastian Korda at the French Open on Tuesday, the 32-year-old said he still thought he would play at Wimbledon but believes the world’s biggest tournament could even ban him over his comments.
‘Look, my old man’s flown over for it, Wimbledon’s hallowed ground, mate, a beautiful place. I love it,’ Millman said.
‘But I don’t like how they went about making the decision.
The veteran Australian stalwart, a Player Council representative for the ATP men’s tour, also called on the British government to reveal whether it was actually behind the decision, not Wimbledon (pictured, Millman playing in Paris on Tuesday)
‘If the whispers are that it’s government guidance, get the government to come out and say it was them.
‘I’m getting older, there’s probably not going to be so many opportunities to play Wimbledon, so I think I’ll play but maybe I’ll get banned for saying this stuff.
‘I mean, you can, right? That’s what I’ve had a problem with from the very start – unilateral decisions.’
Millman volunteered his views in eloquent fashion for 20 minutes about ‘wrong governance’ at the highest levels of the sport.
‘First, I want to put it out there that I’m against any conflict where people are dying,’ he began.
‘The Russia-Ukraine conflict is terrible. My heart aches for the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian players, I hate that.
‘But I hate all conflict. I didn’t like the war in Iraq when collateral damage is seen as innocent people dying. I don’t like the UK selling bombs to the Saudis when they bomb Yemen.
‘I don’t like Israel and Palestine conflict, don’t like the Libya conflict, anywhere where people are dying. I think that it’s rubbish.
‘But also I don’t like unilateral decisions.
‘There was an opportunity to have the Russians (and) Belarusians play (at Wimbledon).
‘There were two options – recommendations, not even laws – given by the UK government. One, to sign a declaration, and be able to play; and the other one to ban them.
‘Without really any consultation, a unilateral decision was made to ban players. It just goes against what tennis is about.
‘I have a problem with lack of communication. The player council, player reps on the ATP board, hadn’t been consulted until after the decision had been made.
Wimbledon took the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in light of Putin’s actions in Ukraine (pictured, Ukrainians on Tuesday living in a subway station in Kyiv)
‘The Russian and Belarusian players weren’t even asked if they’d sign the declaration prior to this decision being made. We talk about their safety. They weren’t even asked if they could sign it.
‘And this is where the governance is wrong in tennis, at grand slam level. Because it should be a partnership.
‘I know COVID’s tough but in the last two years, we’ve seen grand slams change the date three times and our world’s best player (Novak Djokovic) locked up in detention for two weeks, horrible scenes to watch whether you’re pro-vaccination or not.
‘It’s tough times, but the buck’s got to stop somewhere, where there’s a change in governance and consultation where players and tournaments work together.
‘I just don’t see that and I don’t see it with this decision.’
Of the ATP’s decision to ban ranking points from Wimbledon, he said: ‘We allowed our player reps and tournament reps to make that decision.
‘Obviously, there were a whole lot of options on the table, but the point is you can’t make unilateral decisions and exclude players. It’s discrimination, right.
‘Players are being ignored. There’s no consultation. There’s frustration (from them) with everything, that they’re being ignored, that points have been removed, frustration that there is discrimination.
‘We’ve got to start working together and that’s not happening.’