Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of the war in Ukraine, the All England Club announced on Wednesday.
Among the prominent men’s players affected by the ban are reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is currently No. 2, and No. 8 Andrey Rublev. Among the women’s players involved is number 4 Aryna Sabalenka, who was the Wimbledon semi-finalist last year; Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, last year’s French Open runner-up.
Medvedev, Rublev and Pavlyuchenkova are from Russia; Sabalenka and Azarenka come from Belarus.
Wimbledon starts on June 27. The All England Club confirmed in March that it was in talks with the British government over whether Russians could play in the Grand Slam tournament on grass.
Russian athletes have been prevented from participating in many sports after their country’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus helped Russia in the war.
Football, figure skating and track and field have all banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams from their events because of the war. Russia’s men’s national football team was banned from the World Cup qualifying play-offs last month, forcing them to miss a chance to reach this year’s tournament in Qatar.
Wednesday’s move marks the first time a tennis tournament has told players from Russia and Belarus they are not welcome.
The seven groups that run the sport around the world decided on March 1 that players from those countries will be allowed to participate in WTA, ATP and Grand Slam tournaments, but not under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus. Those two countries were also kicked out of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions; Russia was the reigning champion in both.
Allowed to participate in the French Open
The French Open, which starts on May 22, will be the first Grand Slam tournament since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and is expected to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete.
The All England Club said if “circumstances change materially between now and June”, it would “respond accordingly”.
“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,” said Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Club.
“We have considered very carefully the alternative measures that could be taken under UK Government guidelines, but given the prominent environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to defraud the Russian regime and our wider concerns for the audience and player [including family] security, we don’t believe it’s viable to continue on another basis at The Championships.”