Tennis: Wimbledon bans Russian players

The ATP’s second-best hitter, Daniil Medvedev, will not step onto the Wimbledon turf at the end of June. The most prestigious tennis tournament in the world announced today that players from Russia and Belarus cannot participate due to the armed invasion of these two countries in Ukraine.

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The English event, the third round of the season’s Grand Slam, became the first tennis tournament to sanction athletes in this way.

Since the beginning of the conflict in February, tennis players from Russia and Belarus have continued to play professional games, but under a neutral flag. They were only excluded from team competitions such as the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup.

Several other sports institutions, including FIFA, the international football governing body, have already banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from their events on the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee.

“In the circumstances of unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to take any advantage of the involvement of Russian or Belarusian actors. [au tournoi] ‘ the London organization said in a press release.

A “hard” decision

The decision will be reviewed if circumstances “change radically by June”, just before the start of the event, which will take place from June 27 to July 10 this year.

“We recognize that this decision is a difficult one for the individuals involved and they will suffer with sorrow at the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” added Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Club, the major’s grass website . . .

Among them is Medvedev, who was briefly world number one and last US Open winner this season, but also Andrey Rublev, eighth, and Karen Khachanov, 26and.


Arina Sabalenka

Photo from the archive, AFP

Arina Sabalenka

Among the women, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, fourth in the world, is the top-sanctioned player (see below).

Hostages, says the Kremlin

This decision was condemned by the Kremlin, which through its spokesman Dmitry Peskov declared: ” [qu’ils] Make athletes hostage to political prejudice and political intrigue”.


TENNIS ATP MONACO

The ATP, the body that regulates men’s tennis but from which Wimbledon and the three other major tournaments are independent, also criticized the suspension of Russian and Belarusian players, calling it “unfair”.

“Discrimination on the basis of nationality is also a breach of our agreements with Wimbledon, whereby a player’s participation is based solely on his placement. We will now analyze […] what are the follow-up to this decision,” the men’s association responded.

The women’s association WTA made a similar statement.

Svitolina urges to condemn

Athletes primarily affected by this decision have not responded in the hours following this announcement.


Elina Switolina

Photo Courtesy, ZUMAPRESS.com/MEGA

Elina Switolina

But today, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina called on major tennis federations to ban players from Russia and Belarus from their competitions if they denounce “the invasion of Ukraine,” “military activities in Ukraine,” and “the regimes” of President Vladimir Putin rather than directly condemn Alexander Lukashenko.

Some, including Medvedev and Rublev, spoke openly about the conflict in its early stages. The first said he wanted “peace around the world,” and the second notably signed “no war please” on the lens of a camera after winning a game in Dubai in February.

Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one and winner of two Grand Slam titles, said she finds it “heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been and continue to be affected by this violence”.

But those words and gestures seem inadequate in the eyes of the former world No. 3, originally from Odessa.

“As athletes, we live in the public eye, which places a great responsibility on us,” she posted on her social media. […] We noticed that some Russian or Belarusian players vaguely mentioned the war but never mentioned that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine. »

“In times of crisis, silence means we agree with what is happening,” the player added.

– With AFP


The main actors excluded

MEN

  • Daniel Medvedev (RUS / N.2 / 26 years old): He is recovering from a hernia, which he announced on April 2 that he would have “a month or two”. Finalist at this year’s Australian Open and winner of the last US Open, he reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon last year, his best result in four appearances.
  • Andrei Rublev (RUS/N.8/24 years): He had reached the round of 16 on the London lawn last year, his best result so far. He reached the quarterfinals in the other three majors without ever surpassing them.
  • Karen Khachanov (RUS/N.26/25 years old): He reached the quarter-finals in 2021 and had his best Grand Slam result in 2019 at Roland-Garros.
  • Aslan Karatsev (RUS / N.30 / 28): Before qualifying and reaching the semifinals at the Australian Open 2021, he had never played in the main draw of a major. He lost his only main draw match last year at Wimbledon.
  • Also affected: Ilya Ivashka (BLR/N.44/28 years)

WOMEN

  • Arina Sabalenka (BLR / N.4 / Age 23): She reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year before doing it again a few weeks later in New York. This year she remains in Australia in the round of 16.
  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS/N.15/30 years): Finalist at Roland-Garros 2021, she has never really shined on grass. At Wimbledon in 2016, she achieved her best result in the quarterfinals. Last year she lost in the third round.
  • Viktoria Azarenka (BLR / N.18 / 32 years old): She has reached the semi-finals twice at Wimbledon, but that dates back to 2011 and 2012. She has since reached the quarterfinals again in 2015 but remains on a knockout round two last year.
  • Also affected: Daria Kasatkina (RUS/N.26/24 years old), Veronica Kudermetova (RUS/N.29/24 years), Lyudmila Samsonova (RUS/N.31/23 years), Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS/N.39/27 years), Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR/N.50/28 years), Varavara Gracheva (RUS/N.73/21 years), Anna Kalinskaya (RUS/N.75/23 years), Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS/N.95/20 years), Vera Zvonareva (RUS/N.100/37 years) Source: AFP

Other tournaments should not follow

Eugène Lapierre is surprised by the Wimbledon decision


Director of the National Bank of Montreal Open, Eugène Lapierre, during a press conference at the IGA Stadium in August 2018.

Photo archive, Martin Alarie

Director of the National Bank of Montreal Open, Eugène Lapierre, during a press conference at the IGA Stadium in August 2018.

There is no indication that Canada, in turn, will ban Russian and Belarusian players from its tennis competitions, says Omnium Banque Nationale de Montréal director Eugène Lapierre, who expressed surprise at today’s Wimbledon tournament decision.

“The tennis world appeared to have unanimously supported the decision [de laisser jouer les Russes et les Biélorusses sous drapeau neutre], Mr Lapierre pointed out. We have said that sport is unifying, that we will not punish athletes who are unrelated and largely opposed to the war. »

The ATP and WTA, the two bodies that oversee men’s and women’s tennis respectively, have also harshly criticized today’s banning of Russian and Belarusian athletes from Wimbledon.

Roland-Garros and the United States International do not yet plan to follow suit, even if, like the major controversial in London, they are independent of the two tennis associations.

Other English tournaments

The only other events affected are expected to be sanctioned by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the English equivalent of Tennis Canada. The LTA said today it will also ban Russians and Belarusians from its events.

We are mainly talking about Wimbledon preparatory tournaments played on English soil, such as Queen’s for men and Eastbourne for men and women.

Because, recalls Mr Lapierre, the Wimbledon decision is largely political. “We understand that this is a very, very strong recommendation from the UK Government, which the LTA and Wimbledon have followed,” he noted.

The English government has also reacted to the announcement by its sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, who underlined Wimbledon’s “decisive action”.

“We are playing a pioneering role internationally so that President Putin cannot legitimize the barbaric invasion of Ukraine through sport. Banning athletes is a complex issue that is dividing public opinion, but there is a bigger cause at stake,” said Mr Huddleston, whose comments were picked up by the BBC.

Not in Canada

Some major sporting events have taken place on Canadian soil in recent weeks without the attendance of Russian or Belarusian athletes.

But they were banned by their association and not barred from entering Canada. This was notably the case at the World Short Track Speed ​​Skating Championships held in Montreal in early April.

“Nothing proves [qu’une décision comme celle de Wimbledon] could be taken in Canada, Mr. Lapierre said. We all seem to pretty much agree that this is something that could add fuel to the fire. »

“We want the Russian people to understand that we are not against them, but against their government. So if we start meeting their athletes, it might toughen them up in the opposite direction of what we want to see,” he continued.

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