British tennis chiefs set to reveal decision on Russian player ban amid big threat

British tennis chiefs set to reveal decision on Russian player ban amid big threat

British tennis chiefs are under huge pressure to lift the ban on Russian and Belarusian players as the potentially devastating ramifications of their imminent decision were revealed.

Wimbledon chiefs were joined by the Lawn Tennis Association in a ban on Russian and Belarusian players last summer following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

That move was widely criticized by the tennis community, with the ATP Tour and WTA Tour handing down huge fines to the LTA for their move to block players from Russia and Belarus from competing at prestigious events like the cinch Championships at The Queen’s Club and the grass court event at Eastbourne.

Now a report in The Mail has claimed that LTA chiefs are being threatened with the ultimate sanctions if they repeat their ban this year.

The story claims the LTA will lose the right to stage the pre-Wimbledon events if they ban players from selected countries once more, with the ATP and WTA Tour likely to offer up rights to the events to bidders from other countries.

The LTA has reportedly been threatened with a suspension from staging major tournaments in the UK unless they allow Russian and Belarusian players to play this summer.

Now the report claims they will be forced to change their stance, which received widespread support from the British public when it was announced a year ago.

The UK government could step in and refuse to grant Russian and Belarusian players a visa to play in the UK, but that appears to be unlikely at this point.

There is an ongoing debate over whether individuals who are not necessarily representing their nations or supporting the war in Ukraine should be punished for the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet there is no doubt that Putin would make the most of the sight of a Russian player being presented with a Wimbledon title by a member of the British Royal family in July.

While many sports have taken a stand against Russian athletes since its invasion of Ukraine a year ago, tennis has been keen to support players who hail from the nation.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev is among those who have spoken out against the war in Ukraine, as he admits he feels fortunate to still be allowed to play on the tour.

He sent out a message at the Dubai tournament last year insisting he was against the war, but the agonises continue for the people of Ukraine a year on.

“With the situation happening in the world you feel that maybe you don’t deserve and when you feel support from people, I have never felt something like that before. It was a really special moment,” he said at last November’s ATP Finals.

“One of the best things I did this year was the message I left in Dubai. It was the most meaningful thing that I could do during the year.

“In my case, I am super lucky. I cannot say anything or complain because I am able to play and travel. In my position I am super lucky but there are millions of people who suffer and it’s terrible.”

Russian Daniil Medvedev confirmed he is making his way back to top form after a win at the Rotterdam Open on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka cemented her status as one of the world’s leading players by winning the women’s title at the Australian Open last month.

If Wimbledon and LTA chiefs stand by their decision from last summer, those two star names will be among those missing from the big grass court events in England this summer.

Yet it seems increasingly likely that the support for Russian and Belarusian players from tennis chiefs will ensure the door will be open for them to return.

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