UK holding ‘complex’ talks on Russian stars & Wimbledon participation
The chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), Scott Lloyd, has confirmed that talks are taking place between his British tennis governing body, the UK government, and the All England Club regarding the fate of Russian players at Wimbledon this summer.
Unlike many sporting federations, the ATP and WTA men's and women's tennis tours decided not to follow an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation and ban Russian athletes as a response to the military operation in Ukraine.
But while Russian tennis stars can continue to perform under neutral status, UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has suggested that former world number one Daniil Medvedev and his compatriots must give assurances that they are "genuinely neutral" and are "not receiving money from Putin, Russia or Belarus [and] that they will not be making supportive comments of Putin, Russia or Belarus" in order to compete when Wimbledon kicks off on June 27.
Reports have also suggested that the All England Club might be able to ban Russian players outright, with the body announcing a decision will be made in mid-May, and LTA chief Lloyd has now added fuel to such rumors.
"It is an enormously complex situation. I think we are all aligned in finding the actions that we see in our papers and [on our] TV screens absolutely abhorrent," Lloyd told reporters in the Czech capital ahead of the Prague Open.
"We are in very close dialogue with the All England Club, the Government, with the tours. We are very conscious of public sentiment in this area.
"We are trying to navigate what that needs to look like in the summer events in Britain this year," Lloyd concluded.
Some important figures in tennis have been critical of the treatment of Russian athletes, though, with a vital coach in the formation of Medvedev's US Open final rival Novak Djokovic criticizing what he views as blatant Russophobia from the British and Western world.
"It's been like that for the last 150 years" Nikola Pilic claimed as part of an interview with Serbian outlet Kurir, with regards to anti-Russian sentiment in the UK.
"It's just a shame," Pilic also said, regarding "shameful" sanctions on Russian athletes. "Did they do something similar when the Americans entered Iraq and killed over a million civilians there?
"Did they ban their tennis players from playing?" Pilic continued asking. "They are exaggerating in any sense."
Currently recovering from surgery to treat a small hernia, Medvedev could return for the French Open in late May or instead set his sights on Wimbledon, with a decision on whether Russian athletes can play there likely to have been announced around the time the 26-year-old has regained fitness.