Wimbledon has excluded all Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine; this was quickly condemned by both the men’s and women’s tours and the American great Martina Navratilova.
This move is the first time since the post-war period when German and Japanese players were banned, players were banned based on their nationality.
The grass court Grand Slam is the first tennis tournament to ban individual competitors from both countries, meaning men’s world number two Russian Daniil Medvedev and women’s fourth Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka will be banned from the tournament from June 27 to June 10. July.
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In a statement Wednesday, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said government, industry, sports and creative institutions must do their part in their efforts to “contain Russia’s global influence in the strongest possible ways”.
AELTC President Ian Hewitt said in a statement, “We recognize that this is difficult for those affected and we regret that the leaders of the Russian regime will suffer from their actions.” said.
Players have also been banned from UK grass-court tournaments in preparation for Wimbledon.
The ATP, which governs men’s tennis, said Wimbledon’s “unilateral decision” to remove players from Russia and Belarus was “unfair” and could potentially set a damaging precedent for the match.
“National discrimination is also a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon which stipulates that player entry must be based solely on ATP rankings,” the men’s governing body said.
“Any action plan in response to this decision will now be considered in consultation with our Board and Member Boards. »
The Women’s Tennis Federation said it was “very disappointed” by the decision and is “now evaluating its next steps and what action can be taken regarding these decisions.”
“Individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing because of their origin or decisions made by their country’s governments,” the WTA said.
“The decision to focus on discrimination and such discrimination against athletes competing alone as individuals is neither fair nor justified,” the organ added.
The two tennis governing bodies banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions after the invasion, but allowed players from both countries to continue their rounds impartially.
Navratilova, who won nine Wimbledon between 1978 and 1990, called the decision “a bad decision”.
“Such exclusion is not the way to go, without the fault of the players,” he told LBC Radio.
“Tennis is such a democratic sport that it’s hard to see politics destroy it. On the women’s side, almost 10% of the field is not allowed to play,” he said. He is an American of Czech descent, whose wife is Russian.
“This decision was taken by the All England Club in a vacuum. I understand the predicament they are in but I think they are not seeing the bigger picture in a more holistic way. But frankly, the decision devastated me.
Hewitt said the AELTC is “carefully considering” alternative measures that could be taken under UK government guidelines.
“But given the publicized setting of the Championships, the importance of not allowing the sport to be used to support the Russian regime, and our broader concerns for the safety of the public and players (including family), we do not consider it viable to continue on any other basis,” he said.
The Kremlin said banning Russian players from Wimbledon would hurt the tournament given the country’s tennis prowess, calling it unacceptable.
DECISION IS WRONG
Shamil Tarpischev, President of the Russian Tennis Federation, told the newspaper Sport Express that there was nothing the country could do.
“I think this decision is wrong, but we can’t change anything,” Tarpischev said. said. “The (Russian) Tennis Federation has already done everything it can. »
“The decision of the AELTC and LTA raised several questions and we are discussing them with each organization,” the International Tennis Federation told Reuters.
He added that his previous stance, which suspended both tennis federations indefinitely and allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete only as neutral athletes, remains unchanged for the time being.
Earlier, Ukrainian players Elina Svitolina, Marta Kostyuk and Sergiy Stakhovsky, who joined the Ukrainian reserve army before the Russian invasion, called for a complete ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events.
International athlete-led lobby group Global Athlete said banning players from both countries “will also protect athletes who have no choice but to withdraw from the competition.”
“These athletes must follow the orders of their country’s leaders,” he said.
The United States Tennis Association, which organizes the US Open, said it has not yet made a decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in this year’s hard court major, which begins on August 29.
Britain’s sports minister Nigel Huddleston said he would not be comfortable with “a Russian athlete flying the Russian flag” who won Wimbledon in London last month.
Huddleston welcomed the final decision.
“The United Kingdom has played a leading role internationally in making clear that President (Vladimir) Putin should not use sport to justify Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” Huddleston said in a press release. Said.
“…We have positioned ourselves with sports governing bodies and event organizers and will continue to encourage them to take appropriate action for their sport. »
The AELTC said it would “review and react accordingly” if conditions change by June.
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