Russian aces ‘set to be banned’ from another tennis tournament
The head of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) has suggested he would welcome a ban on Russian players at the upcoming Rome Masters tennis tournament.
Following Wimbledon's lead, after the English Grand Slam announced a ban on Russian players last week which was widely-criticized by figures such as world number one Novak Djokovic, it appears that Italy's biggest tennis tournament could introduce similar measures as part of plans reportedly being spearheaded by Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
Despite previously stating that Russian athletes, punished as part of International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended sanctions as a reaction to Russia's military operation in Ukraine, are "clearly" the "victims of this situation", CONI president Giovanni Malago seems to be bowing to political pressure as indicated in comments published by Corriere della Sera on Monday.
"As president of the CONI and a member of the IOC, I deal with sports policy and not with politics," Malago stressed.
"In Italy, I repeat, I represent the IOC. And the Executive Board recommended all federations not to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to tournaments and sporting events. Wimbledon, which is a private club, has followed this indication," Malago pointed out.
"It is up to the government to make a decision. They will be studying the case, they will assess the situation, and then they will make a decision. I am convinced [it will be the best for the country]," Malago concluded.
Malago's remarks make it seem increasingly likely that Russian players will be prohibited from participating in the Italian capital, with some outlets such as The Times already reporting late on Sunday night that the tournament is "set to ban" them.
At the weekend, Corriere della Sera explained how Italian authorities were currently considering the move but that Draghi's mind is already made up.
Draghi allegedly wanted to avoid making any rash moves, though, while wary of fears from the Italian Federation that backlash from the ATP and WTA might risk sanctions and the Rome Masters being excluded from the ATP Tours Masters 1000 list.
As Malago noted, there are differences between the Italian Open and Wimbledon, which is the only Grand Slam organized by private individuals, and the Italian authorities have taken this into account.
According to Corriere Della Sera, Draghi is "fully aware of the role that the ATP practices in the management of the tournament in Rome", but any ban on Russians is certain to be met with criticism from the likes of five-time Rome Masters winner Novak Djokovic.
Calling Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian players including number one ranking rival Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev, who beat him in the Serbia Open final on Sunday, "crazy", Djokovic doubled down on these comments on Saturday.
"I stand by what I said, there is no need for athletes to be banned," Djokovic insisted.
"We have rules against discrimination in tennis. We play based on rankings, not nationality."
Currently recovering from surgery to treat a small hernia, Medvedev may struggle to make the Rome Masters but Rublev, who called Wimbledon's ruling "completely discriminatory", will definitely be affected.
As for Djokovic, he can participate in the competition despite proof of vaccination being required in Italy if he can produce a negative Covid test or proof of recovery from infection after testing positive last December.
This will therefore see the Serb avoid a vaccine scandal similar to the one that resulted in him being deported from Australia and unable to defend his Australia Crown open which Rafael Nadal won to surpass him on 21 Grand Slam wins.