Russian and Belarusian tennis players barred from Wimbledon

Logan Kinajil-Moran, Senior Writer

Wimbledon organizers have announced that, following the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, tennis players from both Belarus and Russia will be unable to compete at this year’s tournament to be held in London in June. The announcement was made on Wednesday, April 20, and has met with significant controversy. 

A statement released by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) explained that “[g]iven the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression,” the statement continued, “it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”

“It is, therefore, our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”

Recently, a group of Ukrainian tennis players, including professionals Marta Kostyuk, Elina Monfils, and Lesia Tsurenko called for a total ban of Russian and Belarusian players who fail to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a letter on social media. The letter noted that “[a]s athletes we live a life in the public eye and therefore have an enormous responsibility. Some of our posts and opinions reach an audience larger than those of regional television stations. In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening.”

“We noticed that some Russian and Belarusian players at some point vaguely mentioned the war, while never clearly stating that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine.”

“The very silence of those who choose to remain that way right now is unbearable” they concluded, “as it leads to the continuation of murder in our homeland.”

Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov expressed his opposition to the decision, telling the New York Times that “making athletes victims of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues, hostile actions towards our country, is unacceptable. One can only express regret here.”

While global tennis bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from team competitions in the recent past, individual players have previously been able to compete in tournaments without the name or flag of their home countries. The recent decision marks the first time they have actually been barred from the tournament on basis of their individual nationality.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) expressed its opposition in a statement posted early Wednesday that “[d]iscrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings.”

On the men’s side, this ban would exclude at least four Russian players ranked in the ATP Top 30 – including world number-two Daniil Medvedev. Russia also has five women in the WTA Top 40, while Belarus’ world fourth-ranking Aryna Sabalenka, along with former world-no. 1 Victoria Azarenka, will have no chance of playing.

Regardless of who will and won’t be allowed to participate, tournament play is set to begin on June 27.

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