Wimbledon 2022: Russian and Belarusian players banned from the tournament
Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev of Russia and women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus are the highest ranked players to be affected.
Players are also banned from all UK grass court tournaments.
The governing bodies of men’s and women’s professional tennis said the move was “unfair”.
Serbian Novak Djokovic, six-time Wimbledon men’s singles champion, has said he does not support the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s (AELTC) “crazy” decision.
The men’s body, the ATP, said it could “set a damaging precedent for the game”, while the women’s body, the WTA, said it was “very disappointed”.
In a statement, the ATP said: “Discrimination on the basis of nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon which stipulates that player entry is based solely on the ATP ranking.
“Any action plan in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member Boards.”
The WTA said it will “evaluate its next steps and any action that may be taken regarding these decisions.”
Djokovic, the men’s world number one, added: “Players, tennis players, athletes have nothing to do with war. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
Martina Navratilova, who has won a record nine singles titles at Wimbledon, said excluding Russian and Belarusian players was “not the way to go”.
“I think it’s the wrong decision. Tennis is such a democratic sport. It’s hard when you see politics destroying it,” the Czech-American said.
Wimbledon runs from June 27 to July 10.
Which players will be affected by the ban?
Explaining its decision, the AELTC said it had a responsibility to “limit Russia’s global influence by the strongest means possible”.
“Under the circumstances of such an unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to benefit from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian actors,” reads a statement from the AELTC.
“We therefore intend, with deep regret, to refuse registrations of Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon.”
Sabalenka reached the semi-finals of last year’s tournament, while Medvedev, who was announced as one of the featured prints in the grass warm-up at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands today, reached the fourth round.
Russian world number 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – who called for an end to the war earlier this year – and 18th-placed Belarusian Victoria Azarenka will also be absent.
Russian Andrey Rublev is eighth in the men’s standings, with compatriot Karen Khachanov 26th.
Only players are banned, which means coaches, referees and physiotherapists can be involved in the tournament.
While the Lawn Tennis Association has banned players from Russia or Belarus from competing in the UK this summer, they will all still be able to play at the French Open, which starts in May.
Players from both countries were allowed to participate in the tennis tour, but not under their national flags.
What was the reaction from the world of tennis, Russia and British politicians?
The ATP said players from Russia and Belarus would still be allowed to participate in its events under a neutral flag.
“Our sport prides itself on operating under the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on ATP rankings,” he said. .
“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 swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the match. .”
The WTA said: “Individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing because of their origin or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.
“Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes who compete alone as individuals, is neither fair nor justified. The WTA will continue to enforce its rules to reject discrimination and ensure that all athletes are able to participate in our Tour events should they qualify to do so, a position which, until today’s announcement, was shared by all of professional tennis.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized the ban.
“Since Russia is a strong tennis country and our athletes are among those at the top of the world rankings, the tournament itself would suffer from this ban,” he said.
“It is unacceptable to once again hold athletes hostage to certain political prejudices, intrigues and actions hostile to our country.”
The AELTC, which organizes Wimbledon, consulted the government in April on whether to allow players to compete.
“We recognize that this is hard on those affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer from the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” said AELTC President Ian Hewitt.
“Given the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our wider concerns for the safety of the public and players (including family), we do not believe it is viable to proceed on another basis to the Championships.”
The AELTC is also working to strip television rights from companies broadcasting in Russia and Belarus.
Although the AELTC’s statement indicates that the decision could be reversed if “circumstances change materially by June”, this is considered highly unlikely.
A statement from the LTA said it is “important to do everything possible to support Ukraine at this time”.
“The LTA believes that tennis should join many other areas of sport and public life in sending a clear signal to the Russian and Belarusian states that their actions are subject to international condemnation,” a statement read.
“The continued participation of Russian and Belarusian nationals in events risks giving these regimes a boost while there is an unprecedented international effort to isolate them and sanction their actions.”
UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston hailed the “decisive action” of the AELTC and the LTA.
“The UK has played a leading role internationally in making it clear that President Putin must not be able to use sport to legitimize Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine. While the withdrawal of individual athletes is a complex issue that will divide opinion, there is a greater cause to stake.”
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries added: “This decision means that Putin will not use tennis’ most iconic Grand Slam to try to legitimize the horrors it is inflicting on the Ukrainian people. The right decision.”
Russia were previously banned from defending their Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup tag team titles after the country’s invasion of Ukraine – a military operation supported by Belarus.
The ATP and WTA have suspended their combined event which was due to take place in Moscow in October.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has also canceled its events in the country.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal”
On Wednesday, Ukrainian world number 25 Elina Svitolina released a lengthy statement calling on tennis’ governing bodies to take a tougher stance against Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Svitolina took a break from sports to deal with a back problem and the emotional impact the invasion had on her.
She posted on social media urging the ATP, WTA and ITF to ask Russian and Belarusian players if they support war, military activities in Ukraine or the regimes of Russian and Belarusian Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko .
“Where appropriate, we demand to exclude and ban all Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in all events,” she wrote.
“In times of crisis, silence means being okay with what is happening.
“There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now.”
Olga Savchuk, who captained Ukraine in the Billie Jean King Cup tie against the United States last week, said Russian players should be banned from competition.
“It can’t just be a punishment against 90% of the Russian people and 10% no,” Savchuk said. told the New York Times.
“It has to be equal and I think it’s collective guilt.”
Former Ukrainian world number 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov has thanked Wimbledon for “leading by example and setting an example for the world”.
“I think Russia should be isolated in every way possible, and the Russian people have to solve this problem,” he told BBC Sport.
It is a decision that allows the All England Club and the LTA to stand out.
Not in the sports sphere in general, as athletics, badminton, canoeing and rowing have all banned individual athletes from Russia and Belarus.
But in tennis, the first Roland-Garros registration lists have been published with these players present, and neither the WTA nor the ATP Tour thinks it is right to prevent these people from continuing their careers.
There may be some movement from Roland Garros after the second round of the French presidential election on Sunday, but the approach in tennis so far has been to ban Russian teams but let the individuals play – even though their nationalities have been removed from scoreboards and leaderboards.
A large majority of players have been happy with this position so far, but given the magnitude of what has happened in Ukraine and taking into account British public opinion, the AELTC felt that it is not had no alternative.
And this with the possibility of legal repercussions in mind. The LTA, for example, has contracts in place with the ATP and WTA for the grass-court events they hold at venues such as Queen’s and Eastbourne in June.