Russian no.1 grateful for ‘support’ over Wimbledon ban
Daria Kasatkina says tennis officials at the WTA and ATP have “stood up for” Russian players following the ban imposed on them by Wimbledon, although she is still uncertain how the situation will pan out amid talk of punitive measures against the London Grand Slam.
The women’s WTA and men’s ATP tours both issued condemnatory statements after Wimbledon announced back in April that Russian and Belarusian players would be barred from attending this year’s event because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) has taken a similar step to Wimbledon, meaning no players from the two nations will be allowed to compete at British events this summer.
The ATP and WTA are both said to be mulling a decision to strip Wimbledon of its rankings points in retaliation for the bans, with women’s chief Steve Simon said to have formally recommended the step this week, although it was reported that the same sanction will not be applied to other UK events in the build-up to the grass court Grand Slam.
Kasatkina, who recently rose to become her nation’s women’s number one, said it was pleasant to see the likes of the WTA and ATP speak in the interests of Russian and Belarusian players.
“It’s nice that they stood up for us. The situation is not easy, even discussing this topic now is very difficult,” the 25-year-old told Russian outlet Sport-Express.
“We don’t want to be deprived of work, that’s obvious. And we’re glad that our employer [the WTA] supports us.
“These are difficult times for everyone, for Ukrainians and Ukraine in general to an incredible extent, that goes without saying,” added the world number 20.
A decision on whether Wimbledon will be stripped of its ATP and WTA rankings points – effectively turning it into an exhibition event – is said to be imminent, although Kasatkina admitted that she was in the dark.
“It’s very difficult to say,” replied Kasatkina when asked what would happen.
“The ATP and WTA are having all these conversations and there is no clear understanding yet.
“This week there was news that tournaments under the auspices of the WTA are held in England without deducting points, for Wimbledon it is still unknown.
“We are also all waiting until we really understand what is happening. Little depends on us,” said Kasatkina.
Removing points from Wimbledon would at least protect Russian and Belarusian players in terms of not losing ground to their rivals in the ratings, although they would still miss out on the lucrative prize money on offer at SW19.
Russian and Belarusian stars are free to compete at the second Grand Slam of the year, however, and will line up at the French Open when it gets underway in Paris this Sunday.
Organizers at Roland-Garros are following the same stance at the ATP and WTA tours, which allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals.
Kasatkina heads to France in good form, having reached the semifinals of the Italian Open in Rome last week before falling agonizingly short in a three-set loss to Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur.
“Yes, I played well in Rome, I felt great there, but that does not give me any guarantees [for the French Open],” said Kasatkina.
“The best thing I learned from the Masters was confidence. Still, I beat good players, went far.
“With this luggage, we must move to Paris, but without much pressure. Like, I played perfectly a week ago, so I have to play the same next week. No, it doesn't mean anything at all.
“I understand subconsciously that the next tournament is a major. It’s important, but it’s not the end of the world, even if you lose in the first round,” added Kasatkina, who enjoyed a career-best run to the French Open quarterfinals in 2018.
World number one Iga Swiatek is widely tipped as the favorite among the women this time around in Paris, having racked up a remarkable 28th successive match victory by winning the title in Rome.
“It’s obvious given her recent results, especially on clay. She is number one in the world, of course, she is the main favorite,” said Kasatkina of the Pole, before cautioning that “any tennis player can lose the next match, you never know.”