Wimbledon officials have confirmed that they intend to ban Russian and Belarusian players from participating in this year’s tournament due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support for the war.
The ban would make Wimbledon the first tennis event in the Grand Slam to restrict competition from Russian and Belarusian athletes. Wimbledon confirmed, in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, that other tennis tournaments to be held this year in the UK plan to follow the same approach.
“Given the profile of tournaments in the UK and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the broad efforts of government, industry, sports and creative institutions to reduce Russia’s global influence through the strongest possible means,” the statement read.
“Under the conditions of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the participation of Russian or Belarusian players in tournaments.”
Wimbledon, one of four Grand Slam tournaments, is scheduled to begin in late June. And the championship, in its statement, left the door open to the possibility of reviewing its position, noting that “if conditions change materially between now and June, we will consider the matter and respond accordingly.”
Statement regarding the Russian and Belarusian personnel in the 2022 tournament.
– Wimbledon (@wimbledon) April 20 2022
The decision will exclude a number of highly rated players. Four Russian men are ranked in the top 30 on the ATP tour, including second seed Daniil Medvedev, the men’s singles champion at the US Open, despite recovering from a hernia operation. Russia has five women’s top 40 in the WTA Tour rankings, led by top 15 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is fourth, and she reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year. Her compatriot Victoria Azarenka, formerly ranked No. 1, came in at No. 18.
After the outbreak of war in February, professional tennis organizers quickly banned the Russians and their Belarusian allies from participating in group events such as the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean Cup, both of which were won by Russian teams in 2021. The sport’s seven governing bodies This ban was announced collectively On 1 March.
The men’s and women’s tour events in Moscow later in the season were canceled, as were a number of lower-level events in Russia and Belarus. The International Tennis Federation also announced the suspension of the membership of the Russian Tennis Federation and the Belarusian Tennis Federation.
However, Russian and Belarusian players were allowed to continue competing in the professional tours as individuals, albeit without any national identity. There are no longer flags or countries listed next to their names on scoreboards, in raffles, or in published computer rankings.
But there have been calls for a complete suspension from several former and current Ukrainian players, including rising star Marta Kostyuk and former player Olga Savchuk, captain Ukraine’s Billie Jean King Cup Teamthat competed with the United States in Asheville, North Carolina, last week.
“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Savchuk said in an interview. “It is not me who makes the decision, but I think that they should also be prevented from playing as individuals. It cannot just be a punishment against 90 percent of the Russian people and 10 percent not.”
It has to be equal, Savchuk added. “And I think it’s a collective guilt.”
But while others global sportincluding track and field and figure skating, has banned individual Russian and Belarusian athletes from some competitions, and professional tennis has adopted a more conservative approach.
Alexander Dolgopolov, a former Ukrainian tennis star who is now part of the Ukrainian army, has voiced his support for Wimbledon’s decision. “Yes, Russians are responsible for the actions of their country, their army and the leaders they choose for 20 years,” Dolgopolov said in a tweet on Twitter.
Officials on the men’s and women’s tours argued that Russian and Belarusian players should not be blamed for the invasion or their country’s policies, and noted that several high-profile players, including Russian star Andrei Rublev, ranked eighth in the men’s singles, and Pavlyuchenkova had spoken out against the war.
“I feel very strongly that these individual athletes should not be the ones being punished by authoritarian leadership decisions that are clearly doing terrible and disparaging things,” said WTA president Steve Simon. In an interview with the BBC last month. “But if that happens, and it’s again part of the overall strategy to get Russia and Russian citizens to pay for the decision that their government has made, it won’t be something we support.”
Wimbledon, the oldest of the Grand Slam tournaments, is likely to be far from the case. The French Open, which begins next month and is the next Grand Slam event on the calendar, has not indicated that it intends to ban singles players. Nor the US Open, which will be held in New York in late August and early September. Currently, regular tour events – such as this week’s events in Barcelona, Spain; Belgrade, Serbia; Istanbul. Stuttgart, Germany – They continue to face the Russians and Belarusians in their draw.
But Wimbledon, which begins on June 27 in London, has come under great pressure from the British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to take a stronger stand. Nigel Huddleston, Britain’s sports minister, told a parliamentary hearing last month that Russian players like Medvedev You may need to provide “confirmations” They do not support President Vladimir Putin in order to play at Wimbledon.
But the tournament, arguably still the most famous in the sport, apparently decided not to ask players to denounce their governments for fear that doing so would put them or their families in a precarious position. The ban, while not part of Wimbledon officials’ initial thinking, would prevent players from making such a choice.
Wimbledon did not ban individual athletes from certain countries Since the aftermath of World War II When players from Germany, Japan and other countries were not allowed to participate in the tournament.
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