Italy considering Rome ban for Russian tennis stars
Italian authorities are reportedly weighing up whether a ban should be imposed on Russian players which would prevent them from being able to take part in the upcoming Italian Open in Rome.
This week, to widespread criticism from world number one Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, and the women's and men's WTA and ATP tours, the All England Club announced that Russian athletes would not be able to play at Wimbledon this summer as a tough response to the military operation in Ukraine that has been heavily encouraged by UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.
According to Corriere della Sera in Italy, however, the local government is considering whether it should follow the All England Club's lead and ban Russian stars from featuring at the Italian Open in Rome too.
The Italian newspaper notes that Prime Minister Mario Draghi's mind is made up on the matter. Yet Draghi wants to avoid rash moves and is wary of fears from the Italian Tennis Federation that backlash from the ATP and WTA could bring sanctions and risk the Italian Open being excluded from the prestigious ATP Tour Masters 1000 list.
The differences between the Italian Open and Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam organized by private individuals, have also been taken into account.
My thoughts on the ban of Russian and Belarusian players from competing in Wimbledon. pic.twitter.com/QX28SRzZFJ— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) April 21, 2022
While reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev would be doubtful for the Italian Open on May 2 given his current recovery from an operation to treat a small hernia, any decision to ban Russian players would affect other figures such as world number eight Andrey Rublev.
Rublev branded the Wimbledon decision "complete discrimination", while Djokovic, who lost to Medvedev in the final at Flushing Meadows last autumn, led criticisms of the move which he banned "crazy".
"I will always condemn war. I will never support war being myself a child of war," Djokovic explained to reporters in Belgrade at the Serbia Open.
"I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history."
"However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good," Djokovic concluded.
The announcement from the All-England club came ahead of schedule after having previously been tipped for a mid-May release.
Amid heavy sanctions on UK-based Russians with alleged links to Vladimir Putin, such as Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, Sports Minister Huddleston originally sought written "assurances" from the likes of Medvedev and Rublev that they weren't "receiving money from Putin, Russia or Belarus" and would not be "making supportive comments of Putin, Russia or Belarus" during the SW19-held tournament.