Nikola Pilic, the former Croatia player and the man who coached Novak Djokovic during his junior days, has criticised the UK government and Wimbledon’s threats to ban Daniil Medvedev and other Russian and Belarus players from competing at this year’s The Championships.
Following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes can only compete as individuals under neutral flags and with no anthems played at ATP, WTA and ITF tournaments.
However, UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has gone a step further as he wants players to denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin through written declarations if they want to compete at Wimbledon.
LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd on Sunday confirmed that talks are ongoing between his organisation, the All England Club and the UK government despite a warning from Australian doubles great Todd Woodbridge that it could be “dangerous” to ask players to denounce Putin.
Pilic, who won the 1970 US Open men’s doubles and also six singles titles during his playing days while he also coached Germany, Croatia and Serbia to Davis Cup glory, is unimpressed by the potential banning of the players.
“It’s just a shame,” he told Kurir. “Did they do something similar when the Americans entered Iraq and killed over a million civilians there?”
He added: “Did they ban their tennis players from playing? They are exaggerating in any sense.”
Pilic, who also runs the Niki Pilic’s Tennis Academie in Germany where 20-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic started his career, also hit out at the “Russophobia in Britain” stating that “it’s been like that for the last 150 years”.