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The last three times that Wimbledon has been played, Novak Djokovic has left England victorious.
Winner of the tournament in 2018, 2019, and 2021, Djokovic learned his first-round opponent Saturday, with the defending champion facing Kwon Soon-woo of South Korea in the opening round.
While Djokovic’s on-court heroics will be the focus over the next two weeks, the 20-time Grand Slam winner has had much to say off the court over the past year, which continued Saturday at his pre-tournament press conference.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wimbledon announced in April that players from Russia and Belarus would not be allowed to compete at the 2022 Wimbledon tournament.
In April, Djokovic voiced his disagreement with the decision, calling the ban “crazy.” Djokovic reiterated his opposition to the ban on Saturday.
“What I can say, as a child of a war – several wars actually during the 90’s – I know what it feels like,” Djokovic said on Saturday. “But on the other hand, I can’t say that I fully agree to ban Russian tennis players and Belarusian tennis players from competing indefinitely.
“I just don’t see how they have contributed to anything that is really happening. I don’t feel it’s fair.”
The world’s number one tennis player, Daniil Medvedev, will not be allowed to play in Wimbledon, and the ATP announced in May that no ranking points will be awarded at the tournament due to the ban.
“It’s very sensitive,” Djokovic continued Saturday. “Once something like this happens on a big stage, anything you say as a person coming from one or the other country, is going to be judged in one way or another. So, I understand both sides and it’s really hard to say what’s right and what’s wrong. But in my heart, as an athlete, putting myself in a position where someone would ban me from playing because of the circumstances and I have not contributed to that, I would not think that’s fair.”
Earlier in the week, the All England Club stood by its decision.
“We hugely regret the impact on individual players, but it remains the right decision for us this year,” Chief Executive Sally Bolton said, according to the BBC.
Wimbledon will be played from June 27-July 10.