Belarusian icon demands response to Wimbledon ban
Former women’s world number one Victoria Azarenka says Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players “does not make sense” as the star joined the wave of criticism over the move.
Belarusian ace Azarenka is among the biggest names to be affected after officials at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced their decision in light of the conflict in Ukraine.
Azarenka, 32, is a member of the WTA Player Council and has been involved in meetings on the sidelines of the Madrid Open this week to discuss potential responses to the Wimbledon sanctions.
“There should be a reaction to that,” said the two-time Australian Open winner. “When you take action, there are consequences. The one that Wimbledon takes, the one that WTA might take [in response].
“If you are asking me if I agree with Wimbledon or I see their reasoning after being on a personal call with them, I don’t see their reasoning,” added Azarenka.
“It does not make sense and it does not connect to what they are saying. I have made my stance very clear on the issue. I will never, ever support war.
“I will never support violence. I will never find any justifications for that. That is all I can say right now.”
There are reports that the WTA and men’s counterpart the ATP could make Wimbledon a non-ranking event in response to the decision to bar Russian and Belarusian players.
Both organizations have come out strongly to censure the move by the British grass court showpiece, suggesting it is discriminatory.
The WTA and ATP have both allowed Russian and Belarusian players to continue to compete on their tours as neutrals after the conflict in Ukraine broke out.
Wimbledon organizers and fellow officials at the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) – which banned Russians and Belarusians from all UK tournament this summer – attempted to justify their ban by claiming it was aligned with British government policy targeting Russia.
They also argued that allowing Russian stars such as men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev to compete at SW19 would somehow boost the“propaganda machine of the Russian regime.”
Azarenka, who is a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist, is said to have discussed the issue in a Zoom call with tournament chief executive Sally Bolton. One unnamed top player is also reported to have participated with a legal representative present.
When asked if she could take legal action, Azarenka responded: “I am not sure. It is a complicated issue.”
Currently ranked number 17 in the world, Azarenka returned to action in the Spanish capital on Thursday where she earned a straight-sets win over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic.
The highest-ranked women’s star who will be affected by the Wimbledon ban is Belarusian world number four Aryna Sabalenka. The likes of Russia’s Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova – number 15 in the world – will also miss out.
On the men’s side, top-10 Russian star Andrey Rublev will join Medvedev and others in sitting out the tournament.
Wimbledon gets underway on June 27 and runs until July 10. The French Open, which kicks off on May 22, is not planning to impose a ban on Russian and Belarusian players.