John McEnroe and Tim Henman clash over Wimbledon ranking points row

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John McEnroe speaks on court after the Men's Singles third round match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on day six of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park - GETTY IMAGES
John McEnroe speaks on court after the Men's Singles third round match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on day six of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park - GETTY IMAGES

John McEnroe has called the decision to wipe ranking points from Wimbledon "a mistake" and argued that players should instead boycott the tournament if they felt strongly about the ban of their Russian and Belarusian colleagues.

Three-time Wimbledon champion McEnroe, known for his opinions, got into a spirited debate over the controversial topic with All England Club board member Tim Henman live on Eurosport. He questioned the organisers' decision to enforce a ban and appeared confused about Belarus's support for Russia in the Ukraine conflict.

"I think it was a mistake by Wimbledon to do what they did in the first place, kicking out the Russians and Belarusians," he said, adding: "I don’t know how they came up with the Belarusians, too, but that’s a whole other story.

"That’s my opinion, compounded by the fact that now the ATP and WTA say no points, I don’t see how that helps the players. If the players really believe that Wimbledon had made a big mistake, by not allowing the Russian and Belarusian players to play, in my opinion they should have boycotted the tournament."

The last time there was a player boycott at Wimbledon was 1973, when a number of big names opted out in protest over a political dispute involving Yugoslavia’s Niki Pilic.

Former British No 1 Henman unsurprisingly responded by defending the All England Club, saying there were "no winners" in the situation, and emphasised the Government guidance upon which the ban was based.

"When you go through the circumstances that are presented for Wimbledon, the directive from the Government is that the players are not allowed to play for neutral athletes as has been on the tour," Henman said. "So the question in return: are Wimbledon expected to turn around, given their status in the UK, and say to the Government: 'Actually we think we know better than you, the Government, so we’re going to do something different.' The reality is that is not going to happen."

McEnroe replied, "I would absolutely do that" but later conceded that "it sounds like a lose-lose for everybody".

The controversial removal of ranking points from Wimbledon has split opinion on tour, and dominated conversation at Roland Garros on Monday, as some players including Naomi Osaka suggested they may skip the tournament altogether.

"I think it’s very possible a lot of players aren’t going to play Wimbledon because of ranking points," seven-time major champion and fellow pundit, Mats Wilander, said. "Then there are a lot of players that are absolutely never going to miss Wimbledon. I will respect players that don’t go and I respect Osaka’s answer, that she gets fired up when there are ranking points on the line.”

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