Wimbledon announces ban on players from Russia and Belarus



The organizers of Wimbledon have announced a ban on players from Russia and Belarus from competing at this year’s tournament, as well as all other events organized by the Lawn Tennis Association in Britain this summer.

The decision comes in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support of the war and means leading players such as the men’s No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and women’s No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka will be unable to enter.

Wimbledon has become the first major tennis tournament to reach such a decision. Players from Russia and Belarus have been able to compete under neutral flags in both the ATP and WTA tours since the war in Ukraine began, while the French Open, the second major of the year, will also allow athletes to enter when it begins next month .

The All England Club had been in discussions with the UK Government for several weeks over fears that allowing players from Russia and Belarus to enter the tournament, which begins on 27 June, would be a boost to Vladimir Putin’s regime if a player from either country would win The Championships.

The UK sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, suggested to a select committee last month that players such as Medvedev, the US Open champion, would have to denounce Putin in order to play, but Wimbledon organizers have opted for an outright ban.

A statement from the All England Club on Wednesday read: “Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.

“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”

It added: “If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly. We also welcome the LTA’s decision in declining entries from Russian and Belarusian players to UK events to ensure that British tennis is delivering a consistent approach across the summer.”

Aryna Sabalenka, the leading Belarusian player, reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year

(Getty Images)

Other leading tournaments, such as the US Open, are not expected to follow suit. Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, has also stated his opposition to players being banned based on the actions of their governments.

He told the BBC: “I feel very strongly that these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalized by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things.”

Medvedev, who reached world No. 1 for the first time earlier this year, said of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month: “My message is always the same – I want peace in all of the world.” Other Russian players, such as the men’s No. 8 Andrey Rublev, have openly spoken out against the war.

The top-ranked Russian player in the women’s singles is No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, while Sabalenka of Belarus reached the semi-finals last year and her compatriot Victoria Azarenka is a former world No. 1 and two-time Wimebledon semi-finalist.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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