US Open announces decision on Russian players
World tennis number one Daniil Medvedev will be allowed to defend his men's singles crown at the US Open after organizers confirmed that Russian and Belarusian players can compete at the New York Grand Slam, although Novak Djokovic reportedly could be barred due to his vaccine stance.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) announced the development on Tuesday and said that while it "supported the banning of the Russian and Belarusian Tennis Federations from the ITF (International Tennis Federation), and therefore all international team competitions" it also supports "the directive for players from those countries to play under a neutral flag when competing outside of international team competitions."
The confirmation follows an earlier report from The Telegraph that claimed the USTA had decided on the approach at a board meeting on Monday.
While arguments in favor of echoing a ban on Russians seen at Wimbledon were reportedly heard there, the ATP and WTA stripping the English tournament of ranking points is believed to have been a factor in allowing Russians to compete at Flushing Meadows.
The Telegraph said that the USTA was keen to avoid enforcing politically-motivated bans. And unlike in the UK, where the government and figures such as Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston intervened with pressure to limit Russian participation due to the military operation in Ukraine, US authorities appear to have kept their distance on the matter.
Reacting to the news, Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) president Shamil Tarpishchev told Russian media that the decision to allow Russian athletes to compete at the US Open was correct and "confirmation of the commitment that exists in the world of sports".
"Tennis players participate in tournaments by ranking, not by nationality," he added to R-Sport, making it "absolutely the right decision" to allow Russians to play at Flushing Meadows.
"Athletes have nothing to do with [Russia's military operation], [and] sports are out of politics. You can say whatever you want, but the tournaments are held that way, with the exception of the English tournaments," he concluded.
While top-ranked Medvedev can defend his maiden Grand Slam title won against Djokovic, the Serbian great may not be able to avenge the loss to the Russian in New York, according to the Telegraph.
With Djokovic still believed to be unvaccinated, the British newspaper reports that there are no plans for the US to relax its immigration rules which oblige all foreign travelers to have had their vaccine before entering American territory.
While US immigration dropped the need for incoming passengers to produce a negative test before boarding last week, they have kept a requirement to present proof of vaccination upon arrival.
Djokovic was embroiled in a vaccine and visa scandal in January which saw him denied the chance to try and retain his Australian Open title. Despite being given a medical exemption to play Down Under, he was detained and deported after intervention from the Australian government as Medvedev advanced to the final won by Rafael Nadal.
Nadal then surpassed Djokovic on 21 Grand Slam wins overall and extended this to 22 with his 14th triumph at Roland Garros in the French Open earlier this month.
But even if Djokovic comes out on top at Wimbledon, where he is also the defending champion, Djokovic may not have the chance to equal Nadal's all-time haul this year while set to miss two of 2022's four grand slams.
With Russian athletes present but perhaps not Djokovic, the US Open is scheduled to get underway on August 29.