French Open warns Russian players over Putin support
A leading tennis chief has issued a warning to any Russian stars thinking of making statements in support of President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming French Open or in the media.
Unlike at Wimbledon, where all Russian and Belarusian professionals have been banned this summer, the Grand Slam at Roland-Garros will adopt the stance of the ATP and WTA men's and women's tours by letting them perform but only under strictly neutral status.
This comes despite many sporting federations prohibiting Russian athletes from taking part in international events as a response to the military operation in Ukraine.
But even though the French Open does not object to their presence, Russian stars have been warned that they will be sanctioned for making pro-Putin statements at clay court tournament which kicks off on May 22.
Fielding questions on French radio related to reports that the ATP tour is considering withholding ranking points from UK grass court events if the All England Lawn Tennis Club's (AELTC) Wimbledon ban is upheld, Roland-Garros Tournament Director Amelie Mauresmo said that no fair decision was possible while confirming that Russian players would be able to play at the tournament.
"It’s very complicated, probably there is no fair decision to take," Mauresmo conceded on France Inter.
"We keep the line of what all the European governments – and other governments – decided in March, i.e. national teams of Russia and Belarus banned, but not the athletes as individuals, as long as they play under strict neutrality."
"We will be very meticulous on that," Mauresmo vowed. "[But] if any of them should have pro-Putin statements in the media, there will be sanctions for sure."
Mauresmo's green light will come as a comfort to the likes of Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev, the latter of whom could make an early return from a hernia operation which was meant to keep him sidelined for "one to two months" at the start of April.
Medvdev has taken a wildcard to the ATP 250 tournament in Geneva which is held a week before the French Open, and Roland-Garros would be his only Grand Slam until he can presumably defend his American Open crown at Flushing Meadows in September.
Much-needed ranking points will help number two Medvedev keep pace with world number one Djokovic, who has joined generational rival Rafael Nadal in criticizing the Wimbledon ban on Russians which Nadal finds "unfair" and Djokovic discriminatory.
If Djokovic fails to make the semifinals of the Italian Open in Rome, however, Medvedev could return to the summit in the near future.