Novak Djokovic Calls Wimbledon Ban on Russian, Belarusian Players 'Crazy': 'I Cannot Support' It

"When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good," Novak Djokovic said of Wimbledon banning Russian and Belarusian players on Wednesday

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic. Photo: Corinne Dubreuil/Abaca/Sipa via AP Images

Novak Djokovic is denouncing Wimbledon's recent ban on Russian and Belarusian players amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Speaking with reporters at the Serbia Open following the announcement Wednesday, Djokovic, 34, said he "cannot support the decision of Wimbledon," as "a child of war."

"I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia, we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history," he said, according to CNN.

"However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy," added the 20-time Grand Slam titleholder, who also recently withdrew from multiple U.S. tennis tournaments due to his vaccination status. "When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good."

"I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war," said Djokovic.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Roger Federer of Switzerland in action during the Men's Singles Semi Final against Rafael Nadal of Spain (not pictured) at The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championship at the All England Lawn and Tennis Club at Wimbledon on July 12, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)
Wimbledon 2019. Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty

Tournament officials announced their decision in a statement Wednesday: "Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible."

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships," Wimbledon officials' statement continued. "It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

Wimbledon, which is one of the four Grand Slam tournaments, would have seen a number of highly ranked Russian and Belarusian players: No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, and No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 18 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus.

The tournament hasn't banned athletes since players from Germany and Japan were barred from competing during World War II, ESPN reported.

Wimbledon is scheduled to kick off June 27 and end July 10. Tournament officials added, "If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly."

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The sanction unveiled Wednesday is the latest to be directed at Russia since President Vladimir Putin first began his invasion of Ukraine in late February.

After several countries refused to play against Russia in World Cup qualifying matches, FIFA and UEFA announced that Russian teams were banned from "participation in both FIFA and UEFA competitions until further notice."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but hundreds of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children. Millions of Ukrainians have also fled, the United Nations says.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

Zelensky and Putin
Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L); Vladimir Putin. getty

The invasion, ordered by Putin, 69, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy, 44, vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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