Tim Henman exclusive: Big names won't skip Wimbledon; ATP, WTA 'penalising' players in ranking points row
Four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka has said she is not sure she will play Wimbledon this summer after it was stripped of ranking points after the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players. Osaka thinks it could feel like an "exhibition" tournament, but Tim Henman, who is on the Wimbledon board, is hopeful the "prestige" of the Grand Slam will attract the best players.
Henman doesn't expect players to skip Wimbledon due to lack of ranking points
“It’s not something Wimbledon really wanted but the decision Wimbledon has made has put the tours in a difficult position. At the end of the day I don’t think there are any winners out of it.
"I feel enormous sympathy for the Russian and Belarusian players that can’t play, but understanding a far bigger picture of the war and what’s being going on and the atrocities in Ukraine and let’s hope that finishes sometime soon.
“I don’t think players will end up skipping the Championships at Wimbledon; a Wimbledon title is going to be about a lot more than the ranking points. It’s a difficult situation, hopefully the history and the prestige is going to be at the forefront of players’ minds so they are going to be ready and raring to compete on the grass.”
Henman, who says he has “spoken to lots of players” about the decision, is a four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist.
He says the decision by the ATP and WTA to remove ranking points will “penalise” a lot of players.
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“The ranking points are the only thing that they have had in response to Wimbledon’s decision but the reality is that they are penalising a lot of their players, whether it’s the opportunity for British players who are getting wildcards, or a player who has a breakthrough and gets to the second week, that’s a potentially life-changing performance but they won’t get the benefits of that.
“Again to me it emphasises what an extremely challenging position everyone finds themselves in.”
Wimbledon starts on Monday, June 27.
Novak Djokovic will be the defending men’s champion while Ashleigh Barty will not be back to defend her women’s title after she retired.
"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. We will just go from there.
"I mean, obviously I support our CEO, I support my council, I support the players. The decision that's been taken obviously wasn't taken lightly. 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."
'It's possible a lot of players won't play Wimbledon because of ranking points' - Wilander
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander thinks some players will miss Wimbledon as they see improving their ranking as an "everyday goal".
"I think it’s possible a lot of players will not play Wimbledon, Naomi Osaka might not go to Wimbledon thinking she will win it, as she doesn’t done that well there in the past, and I think there’s a lot of players who will hope to get a good draw and make the fourth round mainly because of ranking points.
"Then there are some players who will never miss Wimbledon. I will respect players who don’t go and I respect Naomi Osaka’s answer that she gets fired up when ranking points are on the line. Rankings for a lot of players are as important as winning tournaments and it’s an everyday goal to get your ranking up so I can understand what she [Osaka] means."
'Osaka will win big tournaments again'
Osaka was speaking after her first-round defeat by Amanda Anisimova at the French Open.
The 24-year-old withdrew from the tournament ahead of the second round last year to protect her mental health and has since taken several breaks from the sport.
Two-time French Open finalist Alex Corretja thinks Osaka will soon challenge for titles again.
"She is such a great player, she is aggressive when she plays and this is very good because it means it depends on you.
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"We know clay is not her best surface but on grass or hard courts she might feel better and she is going to keep winning big tournaments because she plays unbelievable tennis.
"She had such a tough draw. We knew it was going to be difficult for both of them, but probably Amanda was moving a bit better and was more precise with her shots.
"The balls were a bit heavier and she was dictating a bit more and that’s why Naomi struggled to beat her. It was a good match and it was not a huge surprise Osaka lost as it was a very difficult opponent."
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