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Wimbledon became the first tennis tournament to ban Russian and Belarusian players in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a move immediately criticized by the world governing body for men’s professional tennis as unfair.

The ban means Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, currently ranked second in the world, and Andrey Rublev, ranked eighth, cannot compete in the Grand Slam tournament. In the women’s draw, two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka, ranked 18th in the world, and Aryna Sabalenka, ranked fourth, are banned from playing. Both are from Belarus, which aided Russia in its attack on Ukraine.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which manages Wimbledon, announced the decision on April 20, confirming previous media reports.

“In the circumstances of such an unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefit from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian actors,” he added. a statement from the AELTC said. “We therefore intend, with deep regret, to refuse registrations of Russian and Belarusian players at Wimbledon.”

The ban also applies to other UK grass-court tournaments due to take place before Wimbledon.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the world governing body for men’s tennis, called the ban discriminatory and said it set a bad precedent.

“We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the [AELTC] Excluding players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game,” the ATP said. statement mentioned.

“Discrimination based on nationality is also a breach of our agreement with Wimbledon which stipulates that player entry is based solely on ATP rankings,” the organization said.

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka in action at Wimbledon in 2018.

Ian Hewitt, president of the AELTC, said in the statement that the tournament recognizes that the ban will be harsh on the players affected.

“It is with sadness that they will suffer from the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” he said in the AELTC statement.

But he said that given the high profile of the tournament, the importance of not allowing the sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and the concerns for public and player safety, “we don’t think it is viable to proceed on another basis at the Championships.”

The statement said that if circumstances change materially by June, the AELTC will “review and react accordingly”.

Earlier on April 20, The Times newspaper and sports industry website Sportico quoted sources as saying the AELTC was in talks with the UK government over the participation of players from both countries.

The tournament is scheduled to start on June 27 and end with the men’s singles final on July 10.

Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed to continue competing in ATP and WTA events under a neutral flag since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Russia and Belarus had previously been barred from participating in the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup team events.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the decision unacceptable.

“Considering that Russia is a very strong tennis country,” he said, “our athletes are at the top of the world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their withdrawal.”

Ukrainian players Elina Svitolina, Marta Kostyuk and Serhiy Stakhovsky demanded in a joint statement that Russian and Belarusian athletes be banned from competing in any international event.

“In times of crisis, silence means being okay with what is happening. We noticed that some Russian and Belarusian players at one point vaguely mentioned the war, but never clearly stated that Russia and Belarus Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine,” the players said. . “The silence of even those who choose to remain so at this time is unbearable as it leads to continued killings in our homeland.”

Russian and Belarusian players can still participate in the French Open, which starts in May. The United States Tennis Association said it has not yet made a decision on whether Russian and Belarusian players will participate in this year’s US Open, which begins August 29.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to multiple decisions in international sport to exclude Russian teams or cancel events scheduled in Russia. One of the most significant was the ban imposed by FIFA, world football’s governing body, excluding him from international football events, including those associated with this year’s World Cup.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month rejected Russia’s appeal against FIFA’s ban.

With reports from The Times, Sportico, Reuters, AFP and dpa
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