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Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarusian tennis players in response to Ukraine invasion
The move was confirmed by the AELTC late Wednesday afternoon, with the LTA backing the position. The ATP and WTA denounced that course of action.
Published Apr 20, 2022
INTERVIEW: Ukraine's Elina Svitolina discusses the war and refugee assistance while at the Miami Open
The likes of Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Andrey Rublev, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Victoria Azarenka will not be permitted to compete at the All England Club this summer.
Reported by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, it was confirmed late Wednesday afternoon that Wimbledon would become the first tennis tournament to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus backing the decision.
"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."
The two nations were previously excluded from this year’s Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup competitions by the International Tennis Federation in February shortly after attacks in Ukraine began. Russia captured both of those team events in a banner 2021 that also saw Pavlyuchenkova and Rublev take home the gold medal in mixed doubles at the Tokyo Olympics.
Though currently out with a hernia injury, Medvedev is the ATP’s second-ranked player and reigning US Open champion. Sabalenka advanced to her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon last summer, and Azarenka holds a lifetime 33-13 record at the grass-court major.
Among other past moves made by tennis governing bodies, players hailing from Russia and Belarus have been competing without country identifications in areas such as rankings, scoreboards and television graphics. Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, who is currently taking a break from the WTA Tour, called for athletes from these two countries to contest events as neutral athletes on March 1 when she was in Monterrey for a WTA 250.
A few weeks later, former world No. 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov, also from Ukraine, declared that Russia and Belarus should be “banned from everything that is run by the free world.” Dolgopolov and countryman Sergiy Stakhovsky are among the former athletes to join the front lines in Ukraine’s defense.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk uploaded a lengthy message on her social media accounts following the news of Wimbledon's purported decision. Svitolina soon shared the same text, which implores the WTA, ATP and ITF to ask Russian and Belarusian players to answer three questions, across her channels.
One section reads, "As athletes, we live a life in the public eye and therefore have an enormous responsibility. Some of our posts and opinions on social media reach an audience larger than those of regional television stations. In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening.
"There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now."
By Wednesday afternoon in the U.K., the LTA announced it was supporting the position taken by Wimbledon organizers.
"After careful consideration, the LTA believes that tennis must join many other areas of sport and public life in sending a clear signal to the Russian and Belarusian states that their actions in Ukraine are the subject of international condemnation," its statement read.
"This decision, alongside that of the AELTC, also means that British tennis is delivering a consistent approach across all events over the course of the summer."
The ATP later denounced the action taken by the AELTC and LTA. While stating its condemnation of Russia’s attack, the tour hit home on the point that players show up as individuals at tournaments and excluding Russian and Belarusian competitors sets a harmful example.
“We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game,” a passage read. “Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings.”
The WTA followed suit, saying, "A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination."
Russia’s first and only Wimbledon singles crown was lifted by Maria Sharapova in 2004. The nation has enjoyed far greater success at the other three majors, combining for 12 singles titles.
Neither the FFT or USTA, which oversees Roland Garros and the US Open respectively, have indicated they will follow the AELTC’s course of action. The main draw of the French Open begins Sunday, May 22. The Australian Open was held before the war began.