Wimbledon 2022: Russian & Belarusian players banned from tournament

Wimbledon 2022: Russian & Belarusian players banned from tournament

Daniil Medvedev replaced Novak Djokovic at the top of the world rankings for three weeks in 2022

Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year because of 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 from both countries have been allowed to compete on the tennis tour but not under their national flags.

Wimbledon takes place from 27 June to 10 July.

It is understood the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) will confirm the move later on Wednesday.

Sabalenka reached the semi-finals of last year’s tournament, while Medvedev, who has been announced as one of the star drawsexternal link at the grass-court warm-up event at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands today, reached the fourth round.

Russian world number 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – who called for the war to stopexternal link earlier this year – and 18th-ranked Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will also miss out.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev is eighth in the men’s standings, with compatriot Karen Khachanov 26th.

They will all still be able to compete at the French Open, which begins in May.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov criticized the ban.

“Given that Russia is a strong tennis country and our athletes possess top lines of the world rating, the tournament itself would suffer because of this ban,” he said.

“It is unacceptable to make the athletes once again hostages of certain political prejudice, intrigues and hostile actions towards our country.”

The AELTC, which organizes the grass-court Grand Slam, consult the government in April about whether to allow players to compete.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston previously saidexternal link “nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed” to play at Wimbledon.

However, WTA head Steve Simon told BBC Sport in March that he did not believe players from the two countries should be banned from tournaments.

Russia was previously banned from defending its Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup team titles after the country’s invasion of Ukraine – a military operation supported by Belarus.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the men’s association (ATP) have suspended their combined event scheduled 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’

Ukrainian world number 25 Elina Svitolina released a lengthy statement on Wednesday, calling on tennis’ governing bodies to take a harsher stance against Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Svitolina has taken a break from the sport to deal with a back problem and the emotional impact the invasion has had on her.

She posted on social media urging the ATP, WTA and ITF to ask Russian and Belarusian players if they supported the war, the military activities in Ukraine or the regimes of Russian and Belarusian presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.

“If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban any Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in any events,” she wrote.

“In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening.

“There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now.”

Olga Savchuk, who captained Ukraine in last week’s Billie Jean King Cup tie against the USA, said Russian players should be banned from competing.

“It cannot just be a sanction against 90% of the Russian people and 10% not,” Savchuk told the New York Times.external link

“It has to be even and I think it is collective guilt.”

Ukrainian former world number 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov thanked Wimbledon for “stepping up and showing the world an example”.

“I believe Russia should be isolated in all possible ways, and the people of Russia have to solve this problem,” he told BBC Sport.

Analysis

The All England Club will explain its reasons later, but this is a decision which makes it stand out from the crowd.

Not in the sporting sphere, in general, as athletics, badminton, canoeing and rowing have all banned individual athletes from Russia and Belarus.

But in tennis, the French Open entry lists have been published with these players present, and neither the WTA nor the ATP Tour feel it is fair to prevent these individuals continuing their careers.

Russian and Belarusian players were well received by the crowds in Indian Wells last month, and but for the odd exception players seemed content to compete against them – albeit it with their nationalities removed from scoreboards and ranking lists.

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