Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarusian players from Championships after Ukraine invasion

·3-min read
Men’s world No2 Daniil Medvedev is among the most high-profile players set to be affected  (Getty Images)
Men’s world No2 Daniil Medvedev is among the most high-profile players set to be affected (Getty Images)

Wimbledon has banned all Russian and Belarusian players from this summer’s Championships, due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

It become the first tennis tournament to suspend competitors from Russia, who have led the invasion of Ukraine, and Belarus, who have supported it.

The All England Club’s main committee has acted decisively and ahead of time, with the conflict continuing to rage in eastern Europe.

A statement said: “Given 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, 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.”

Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, added: “We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.

“We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”

“If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly.

“We also welcome the LTA’s decision in declining entries from Russian and Belarusian players to UK events to ensure that British tennis is delivering a consistent approach across the summer.”

The announcement means a host of leading players miss out on the tournament, which runs from June 27 until July 10.

Heading that list on the men’s side is world No2 Daniil Medvedev, the US Open Champion, and No8 Andrey Rublev, as well as two other members of the top 30. In February, Rublev wrote “no war please” on a camera lens after a win in Dubai.

Sabalenka is the top-ranked female player set to be ruled out (AFP via Getty Images)
Sabalenka is the top-ranked female player set to be ruled out (AFP via Getty Images)

The women’s draw will be even more heavily affected, with two Belarusian women in the top 20: Aryna Sabalenka, the current world No4, and Victoria Azarenka, a former No1 and two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist. There is also one Russian, Anastasia Pavluychenkova, who made the French Open final last year, in the top 20.

The build-up to the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, was shrouded in doubt by a rather different controversial entry — Novak Djokovic’s battle with tennis and government authorities over his stance on the Covid vaccine — so it makes sense for Wimbledon to set its stance early.

The position of the French Open, which takes place before Wimbledon, is not yet clear, nor is the situation regarding other grass-court events in the UK that happen in the build-up to the flagship event.

It had previously been suggested that individual players could declare in writing that they do not support the war, but this was always seen a risky move by organisers, although there has not yet been any outward support for the war from players, who have continued to compete.

The move is likely to go down especially poorly with the Women’s Tennis Association, whose boss, Steve Simon, told the BBC recently that he felt “very, very strongly” that players should not be “penalised by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership”.

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