Officials from the men’s and women’s tours have argued that the Russian and Belarusian players should not be blamed for their country’s invasion or policies, pointing out that several leading players, including Russian stars Andrey Rublev, were the No. 8 in men’s singles, and Pavlyuchenkova have spoken out against the war.
War between Russia and Ukraine: important developments
“I strongly believe that once again these individual athletes should not be the ones who are being punished by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is clearly doing terrible, reprehensible things,” said Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, in an interview with the BBC last month. “But if that happens, which is part of the overall strategy of making Russia and Russian citizens pay the consequences for the decision their government has made, then it’s not something we support.”
Wimbledon, the oldest Grand Slam tournament, will likely be an outlier at this point. The French Open, which starts next month and is the next Grand Slam tournament on the calendar, has not indicated its intention to ban individual players. Nor the US Open, which will be held in New York in late August and early September. For now, regular tour events – like this week’s events in Barcelona; Belgrade, Serbia; Istanbul; and Stuttgart, Germany – continue with Russians and Belarusians in their draws.
But Wimbledon, which starts in London on June 27, is under considerable pressure from the British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to take a stronger stance. Nigel Huddleston, Britain’s sports secretary, told a parliamentary hearing last month that Russian players like Medvedev may need to provide “guarantees” that they will not support President Vladimir V. Putin in order to play at Wimbledon.
But the tournament, arguably still the most prestigious in the sport, has apparently decided not to require players to denounce their governments out of concern it could put them or their families in a precarious situation. A ban, while not part of Wimbledon officials’ initial thinking, would deter players from making such a choice.
Wimbledon has not ruled out individual athletes from certain countries since the aftermath of World War II, when players from Germany, Japan and other countries were barred from participating in the tournament.