Russian, Belarusian tennis players banned from Wimbledon | War news between Russia and Ukraine

Wimbledon hasn’t banned athletes from other countries since World War II, when players from Germany and Japan were banned.

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to participate in this year’s Wimbledon tournament due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) said.

Among the prominent players affected by the ban are reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached number one in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings; men’s number eight-ranked Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, who was the Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021 and is number four in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) ranking; Victoria Azarenka, from Belarus, a former women’s number one who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, last year’s French Open runner-up.

“We recognize that this is hard on the affected individuals, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement on Wednesday.

The tennis organization had “carefully considered” alternative measures that could be taken within UK government guidelines, it said.

“But given the prominent environment of the Championships, 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 player (including family), we do not believe that it is viable to continue with another base,” Hewitt said.

Wimbledon, the most talked-about of tennis’s four Grand Slam events, will take place this year from June 27 to July 10.

Russian officials had reacted angrily to reports of the ban, saying it was “unacceptable”.

“Again they are just turning athletes into hostages of political prejudice and political intrigue,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“This is unacceptable. Taking into account that Russia is a very strong tennis country, our athletes are at the top of the world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their removal.”

Tennis governing bodies had barred Russia and Belarus from international team competitions after the February 24 invasion. However, Russian and Belarusian players had been allowed to participate in tours, but not under their country’s name or flag.

At the moment, Russian and Belarusian players can still participate in the French Open, which starts in May.

“I think this decision is wrong, but there is nothing we can change,” the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, told the Sport Express newspaper earlier.

“The [Russian] Tennis Federation has already done everything it can,” he said.

“I don’t want to talk about this, but I will say that this decision conflicts with the athletes … We are working on the situation, that’s all I can say.”

Wimbledon has not banned athletes from countries since after World War II, when players from Germany and Japan were not allowed to participate.

Ahead of Wednesday’s announcement, Ukrainian tennis players Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk made statements calling for a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from international events.

The international athlete-led pressure group Global Athlete said banning players from the two countries would also “protect those athletes who have no other choice but to remove themselves from competitions”.

“These athletes must follow the orders of their country’s leaders,” it added.

British Sports Secretary Nigel Huddleston had said last month he would not be comfortable with a “Russian athlete flying the Russian flag” winning Wimbledon in London.

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