The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) has announced a ban on all Russian and Belarusian tennis players from Wimbledon in June, saying in a statement it would be “unacceptable” for the Russian regime to benefit in any way.
The AELTC condemned Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine as “unjustified and unprecedented military aggression”, and despite acknowledging the hardness on the players, the declination of Russian and Belarusian players for The Championships would stand.
Belarus is allied with Moscow, which was highlighted at a recent United Nations meeting.
This marks the first time players have been banned based on nationality since German and Japanese players were barred in World War II.
“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,” the AELTC statement 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.
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”
Russia responded immediately, condemning the decision.
“Given that Russia is a strong tennis country the competitions (that make this decision) will suffer from this,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.
“To make sports people hostages of political intrigue is unacceptable.”
The statement has received a widely negative response from tennis players, commentators, and the men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) governing bodies.
“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings,” the ATP said.
The WTA were equally as robust, saying that the Association was “very disappointed”.
“Individual athletes should not be penalised or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”
“Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.”
It is understood both associations will look at appealing the decision.
Russia has two men’s players (2021 US Open winner Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev) ranked in the top 10, plus Belarusian women’s world no. 4 Aryna Sabalenka, who are the top ranked players affected by the ban.
You can read the full statement from the AELTC here.
Do you think that Russian and Belarusian players should be punished for the war in Ukraine? Should the AELTC and Wimbledon be getting involved with political issues? Let us know.