Russian ace offers alternative to ‘discriminatory’ Wimbledon ban
World number eight Andrey Rublev says banning Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon is discriminatory and illogical, as he called on the tournament to donate its prize fund to victims of the conflict in Ukraine.
Rublev is among the Russian and Belarusian stars set to miss the tennis grass court showpiece this summer after Wimbledon organizers announced this week that they would be barred.
Rublev, 24, hit out at the move on the sidelines of the ongoing Serbia Open in Belgrade.
“What is happening now is complete discrimination against us. The reasons they gave us had no sense, they were not logical,” the Russian said, according to the AFP.
“Banning Russian or Belarusian players... will not change anything.
“To give all the prize money would have a more positive effect to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering.
“I think that would do something. Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory.”
The Wimbledon prize fund last year totaled just over £35 million ($45 million). The idea of distributing the money to victims of the conflict rather than blocking Russian and Belarusian players from competing was also one shared by the likes of Australia’s John Millman.
Wimbledon organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) justified the ban by claiming “it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”
The organization added the caveat that the decision could be reversed before the event gets underway in June “if circumstances change materially.”
Both the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours have strongly criticized the decision. Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to compete as individuals on the tours, but under neutral status and without any national symbols.
Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic also joined the condemnation, calling the ban “crazy” and suggesting it was political interference.
Rublev, who reached the fourth round at SW19 last year, had issued a message for peace at the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, scrawling ‘No War Please’ onto a camera lens at the Dubai Tennis Championships.
Rublev will be among the most high-profile Russian names to suffer from a ban, as will current world number two and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.
Russia’s Karen Khachanov, who reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last season, said the situation was “really sad.”
“For me, it’s one of the nicest tournaments in the world. You know, it’s special. I had a good run there last year – I played the quarterfinals,” Khachanov was quoted as saying at the Serbia Open.
“And, you know, I’m just really sad that I will be not able to compete there and give my best in one of the biggest tournaments during the year that we have, these four Grand Slams. So yeah, I’m really sad that the decision was taken.”
Among the big-name women’s stars set to miss out on Wimbledon are Belarusian duo Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka. Sabalenka is currently ranked world number four, while Azarenka is a two-time Grand Slam champion.