Nadal, Djokovic and Murray slam Wimbledon decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes

    Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have all criticized Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in press conferences at the Madrid Open.

    (CNN)There is a growing rift between some of the world's leading tennis stars and past and present Ukrainian players over Wimbledon's decision to ban competitors from Russia and Belarus due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Explaining its stance, Wimbledon said it didn't want to "benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime."
    However, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic, who have won 10 Wimbledon titles between them, have joined the likes of the ATP and WTA in their opposition to the ban.
      "I think it's very unfair (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," Nadal said in a press conference on Sunday ahead of the Madrid Open. "It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war.
        "I'm sorry for them, Wimbledon just took their decision ... the government didn't force them to do it. Let's see what happens in the next weeks, if the players will take some kind of decision in that regard."
        Ukrainian players have largely supported Wimbledon's ban, and Sergiy Stakhovsky -- who retired earlier this year and has since joined the Ukrainian army to defend his homeland -- condemned Nadal's stance.
        "@RafaelNadal we competed together ... we've played each other on tour," Stakhovsky wrote on Twitter.
          "Please tell me how it is fair that Ukrainian players cannot return home? How it is fair that Ukrainian kids cannot play tennis? How is it fair that Ukrainians are dying?"
          The All England Lawn Tennis Club's (AETLC) decision marks the first time that Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from an elite tennis event following Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
          Several high-profile players would be unable to compete, including the men's world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and the women's world No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka.
          Belarusian Sabalenka reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last year.
          Murray, who is donating all of his prize money this season to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, said that he was "not supportive" of the plan to ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon but added that there was no "right answer" to the difficult situation.
          "My understanding of the guidance was that Russians and Belarusians can play if they sign a declaration that they're against the war and against the Russian regime," he said to journalists at the Madrid Open.
          "I'm not sure how comfortable I would feel if something happened to one of the players or their families (as a result)."