Organizers of the traditional Wimbledon tennis tournament have announced players of Russian and Belarusian citizenship will be banned from entering in view of current events in Ukraine.
“It is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts ... to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible,” a statement from The All England Club read.
“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,” said the All England Club. It added that if “circumstances change materially” before Wimbledon begins on June 27, it would “respond accordingly.”
Among those affected are US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, currently ranked 8 among men, while the women’s competition would lose one of last year's semifinalists, Aryna Sabalenka, and 2021 French Open runner-up Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Belarus has also been accused by Kyiv of facilitating the movement of Russian troops.
Although Russian athletes have been banned from many competitions this year, Wimbledon is the first event to keep them away on an individual basis.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) dubbed the All England Club's decision as “unilateral and unfair.
“Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments,” the ATP said in a statement.
Global tennis authorities had previously decided that players from Belarus and Russia could compete in WTA, ATP and Grand Slam tournaments but not under the name or flag of their country. Both nations were also kicked out of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions that Russia had both won.
The French Open, which starts on May 22, will be the first Grand Slam tournament held since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and is expected to permit Russian and Belarusian players to compete as so-called “neutral” athletes.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic said Wednesday in Belgrade that the All England Club's decision was madness.
I have always condemned the war, being a child of the war myself (...), but I cannot support the decision of the Wimbledon tournament, which I consider to be madness, Djokovic told reporters.
Earlier this year Djokovic was banned from the Australian Open, like Wimbledon, a Grand Slam event, because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, but such a decision came from the local Government, not from tennis officials.
Tennis players, sportsmen have nothing to do with what happens. It's never good when politics get into sports,” Djokovic added.