After weeks of rumours, Wimbledon have confirmed they will ban all Russian and Belarussian players from the 2022 tournament due to the conflict in Ukraine. Wimbledon is the first tournament to take such a stance, but it is one that has generally been welcomed by tennis fans, despite the fact the tournament will lose a lot of very talented players from the draw. Here, we look at the biggest names the ban will impact and what their public stance has been on the Russian invasion of Ukraine since the conflict began.
Daniil Medvedev is perhaps the top male tennis player on the planet right now. He is not world number one, although he has briefly been this year, but with Novak Djokovic out of sorts and not really playing much, Medvedev is seen as the man to beat.
He has reached the last two Grand Slam finals, winning one of them.
Medvedev is currently out with a hernia injury and is not expected to play much, if any, part in the European clay swing, so a grass absence too will certainly hurt him.
What has Medvedev said on the war?
Medvedev has been quite deliberately non-committal when asked about the situation in Ukraine. He says he does have a view on it, but he has not been willing to reveal it publicly so far. "Everybody knows what's happening, so it's basically of course impossible to ignore it (the invasion), but I always said everybody has different opinions on different things in the world. I always said I'm for peace. "It's very tough in life to talk what is fair and not fair. So I of course do have my own opinions on different topics, but I prefer to speak about them with my family, with my wife, where we can sometimes disagree but we can discuss." Medvedev did remove the Russian flag from his Instagram account, though.
Aryna Sabalenka is one of the Belarussian players to be hit by the ban.
She has firmly established herself at the top of the women's game, currently occupying the world number four spot - she has been as high as No.2.
The 23-year-old is yet to win a Grand Slam, but her joint best result came at Wimbledon last year, where she was beaten in the semi-finals by Karolina Pliskova.
What has Sabalenka said on the war?
Sabalenka has not had any problems stating her support for the people of Ukraine. "I just hope they understand that we're all really worried," she said. "I think even the word 'sad' isn't even the right one. We all care about them and we all hope for the best and peace. "I'm trying not to look at my phone too much right now, because everything I see makes me very sad. Every time I pray for peace."
Andrey Rublev has been an established top-ten player for nearly two years now so the loss of him from the Wimbledon draw is a significant one. Rublev is a power player who operates from the baseline, so grass court tennis is far from his forte, with the fourth round at Wimbledon the furthest he has ever been compared the quarter-finals of the other three Grand Slams.
What has Rublev said on the war?
Of all the players affected by the ban of Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon, Rublev is the one you may feel for the most. Right from the start Rublev has spoken out about Russia's actions in Ukraine saying: "Of course, you cannot not see the news. "I try to don't take everything, let's say, to take all the information, because you never know if it's true or not.
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev writing "No war please" on the camera after his win in Dubai today.
— Read Becoming Abolitionists by Derecka Purnell (@JoshuaPotash) February 25, 2022
"All I can say is that, of course, it's terrible that's what's happening. I feel really bad for everyone." Rublev has also written anti-war messages on television cameras following wins, so he has made his position very clear.
Karen Khachanov looked to be on the verge of a major breakthrough a couple of years ago, but his career has stalled since. The big-serving Russian is a Masters level champion and former world number eight, although he is currently struggling to hold onto his place in the top 30. The Wimbledon ban will be a blow to him, though, with grass appearing to suit his game. He reached the quarter-finals at the All-England club last year before losing a five-set thriller to Denis Shapovalov.
What has Khachanov said on the war?
Khachanov has not spoken publicly about the war in Ukraine, but he has made his stance clear. He used his Instagram to say 'HET BONHE,' which translates at 'no to war' and is the slogan adopted by those engaged in anti-war protests in Russia.
Former WTA world number one Victoria Azarenka will be a huge miss from Wimbledon. The Belarussian is a two-time major winner and a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist. She is also on an upward trajectory again after years of struggles related to a court case to gain custody of her son.
What has Azarenka said on the war?
Azarenka has been very outspoken against the war from the start. She broke down in tears mid-match due to not being allowed to play under the Belarussian flag and has continually condemned the actions of her homeland's government. "I am devastated by the actions that are taking place in recent days against and in Ukraine," Azarenka said. "It is heartbreaking to see how the lives of so many innocent people are being affected by the violence. "Since my early childhood, I have always seen and experienced Ukrainian and Belarusian people, as well as both nations, friendly and supportive of one another. It is hard to witness the violent separation that is currently taking place instead of supporting and finding compassion for each other. "My heart is with everyone directly and indirectly impacted by this war that is causing such pain and suffering for so many. "I hope and wish for peace and an end to the war."
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the current WTA world number 11, has probably played the best tennis of her career over the last 12 months.
She reached the final of the French Open last year and reached a career-high ranking of eighth a few months later.
The 30-year-old has been a quarter-finalist at every other Grand Slam, including Wimbledon.
What has Pavlyuchenkova said on the war?
Of all the Russian players, Pavlyuchenkova has probably bee the most outspoken about the war in Ukraine. "I've been playing tennis since I was a kid," Pavlyuchenkova said on her social media channels. "I have represented Russia all my life. This is my home and my country. But now I am in complete fear, as are my friends and family. "But I am not afraid to clearly state my position. I am against war and violence. Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence. This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children. "I am confused and do not know how to help in this situation. I'm just an athlete who plays tennis. I am not a politician, not a public figure, I have no experience in this. I can only publicly disagree with these decisions taken and openly talk about it. Stop the violence, stop the war."
Aslan Karatsev was a bit of a relative nobody in tennis before he embarked on a dream run to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2021. He entered that tournament ranked outside the top 100 in the world, yet continued to climb after it. He peaked at world number 14 in February, but has since slipped to 30, mainly due to the loss of the rankings points he won in Melbourne.
What has Karatsev said on the war?
The answer to that question is very little. We perhaps shouldn't read too much into that, though. Karatsev is rarely interviewed as he lacks the profile of others.
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