The All England Club announced Wednesday that tennis players from Russia and Belarus won’t be permitted to play at Wimbledon this season because of war in Ukraine.
The ban has had a significant impact on the careers of prominent men’s players, including Daniil Medvedev (current U.S. Open champion), who just reached No. The current No. 1 ATP ranking player is Daniil Medvedev. 2, and No. 8 Andrey Rublev. The affected women’s players include No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka was a Wimbledon semifinalist; Victoria Azarenka was a former No. 1, who won the Australian Open twice, and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (runner-up at the French Open last year).
Medvedev, Pavlyuchenkova, and Rublev are Russian; Sabalenka is from Belarus and Azarenka from Russia.
Wimbledon opens on June 27. In March, the All England Club stated that it was in discussions to the British government over whether Russians should be allowed to participate in the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
“It’s our responsibility to play our role in the widespread efforts…to limit Russia’s global power through the strongest means possible,” stated the All England Club in , a statement that was first published on Twitter. It would be unacceptable for Russia to reap any benefits from the participation of Russian and Belarusian players in The Championships, especially under such unprecedented and unjustified military aggression.
After the invasion of Ukraine, Russian athletes were prevented from participating in many sports. Russia has been supported by Belarus during the conflict.
Because of the war, track and field, figure skating, and soccer all barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from their events. Last month, the Russian national soccer team was expelled from the World Cup qualifying playoffs. This prevented them from securing a place at this year’s tournament in Qatar.
Wednesday’s announcement marks the first time a tournament has said to players from Russia or Belarus that they are not welcome. The ATP quickly criticised the All England Club for the “unilateral decision” it made.
“Our sport is proud that it operates on the fundamental principles merit and fairness where players compete as individuals in order to earn their place at tournaments,” the ATP stated in a statement. They also said that the decision “has potential to set a harmful precedent for the game.”
WTA expressed disappointment with the decision as well.
The women’s tour stated in a statement that “The WTA has always maintained that individual athletes shouldn’t be penalized or prohibited from competing because of where they are from or the decisions made the governments in their countries.” “The WTA will evaluate its next steps and determine what actions can be taken in relation to these decisions.
The seven organizations that oversee the sport worldwide decided March 1 that players of those countries would be permitted to participate in WTA, ATP, and Grand Slam tournaments. However, they will not be allowed to do so under the flag of Russia or Belarus. These two countries were also kicked out from the Billie Jean King Cup competitions and the Davis Cup team competitions. Russia was the reigning champion of both.
The French Open will begin on May 22 and will be the first Grand Slam tournament since Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. It is expected that Russian and Belarussian players can compete, just like “neutral” athletes from other countries.
The U.S. Tennis Association runs the U.S. Open and Wednesday’s announcement said that it had not decided whether or not players from Russia and Belarus could compete in the tournament’s last Grand Slam, which starts on Aug. 29.
According to the All England Club, if “circumstances significantly change between now and June,” they will “respond accordingly.”
“We recognize that this is difficult on the people affected, and it’s with sadness that they will be suffering for the actions of leaders of the Russian regime,” All England Club Chairman Ian Hewitt stated.
“We have carefully considered all possible alternatives to the UK Government guidance, but given The Championships’ high-profile environment, the need to not allow sport to be used for the Russian regime, and our larger concerns about player safety and the public, we don’t believe it is feasible to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”
A number of former and current tennis players from Ukraine, including Elina Svitolina, a two-time Grand Slam semifinalist, and recently retired Sergiy STAKhovsky, posted a statement via Twitter Wednesday asking the WTA and ATP to ask Russian and Belarusian players if they support the invasion.
The posts stated that “In times of crisis silence means agreeing to what is happening.” “We noticed that Russian and Belarusian actors at times vaguely mentioned war, but never explicitly stating that Russia or Belarus had started it on Ukraine’s territory.”