Wimbledon bosses comment on participation of Russian stars
Organizers of grass court tennis showpiece Wimbledon have confirmed they are in talks with the UK government and other parties regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s event.
Reports have suggested that the All England Club, which hosts the Grand Slam, could act independently to prevent stars from Russia and Belarus appearing this summer because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Wimbledon officials have now said they will clarify their stance before the entry deadline in around six weeks’ time.
“We have noted the UK government’s guidance regarding the attendance of Russian and Belarusian individuals in a neutral capacity at sporting events in the UK,” read a statement.
“This remains a complex and challenging issue, and we are continuing to engage in discussion with the UK government, the LTA [Lawn Tennis Association], and the international governing bodies of tennis.
“We plan to announce a decision in relation to Wimbledon ahead of our entry deadline in mid-May.”
UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has said in recent weeks that the government would seek guarantees from Russian and Belarusian players – possibly in written form – that they are not supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin or the military operation in Ukraine and are not financed by the authorities.
Russian and Belarusian tennis stars have not been banned by the ATP, WTA or ITF, although they have been prohibited from team events and are not able to display any national symbols at tournaments.
The Telegraph reported that the All England Club, as a private members’ club, could act without UK government approval and ban Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon regardless of the positions taken elsewhere.
There were said to be concerns that a victory for the likes of Russian men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev would somehow “boost Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime,” although the 26-year-old could be a doubt for this year’s event anyway after undergoing a hernia operation.
Other prominent Russian men’s stars include top-10 ace Andrey Rublev, as well as Karen Khachanov and Aslan Karatsev.
Belarusian tennis boasts notable women’s stars Aryna Sabalenka, who is ranked number five in the world, and two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka.
“Private member clubs have more freedom as to who to allow in or not, so they wouldn’t be subject to the same discrimination laws as the tours,” The Telegraph quoted a source as saying.
“If you are running the main tennis tour, you have the freedom to ban players – if they have been found guilty of match-fixing or doping, for instance – but you have to be able to show that this course of action is reasonable.
“In this instance, if the tours took strong action, Russians players could argue that they are being prevented from making a living through no fault of their own. That is not so much of an issue for Wimbledon, however.”
The Grand Slam at SW19 gets underway on Monday, June 27, and runs until Sunday, July 10.