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19 Jul, 2022 09:51

Wimbledon rejected my Ukraine peace gesture, says Russian ace

Andrey Rublev said all his offers for a solution to the ban on Russian players were dismissed
Wimbledon rejected my Ukraine peace gesture, says Russian ace

Andrey Rublev has revealed he offered to play in the doubles at Wimbledon alongside a Ukrainian player as one of the solutions to the ban handed down to Russians and Belarusians at the Grand Slam in London.

Russian ace Rublev and his compatriots, such as world number one Daniil Medvedev, were forced to miss the grass court showpiece after organizers at the All England Club barred them because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Defending the decision, Wimbledon bosses said the step was in line with UK government guidance and argued that allowing the likes of Rublev to compete would somehow hand a propaganda victory to the Russian leadership.

In a YouTube interview published on Monday, world number eight Rublev says he offered a number of ways around the ban – but to no avail.

“We offered options that could somehow help in this situation,” Rublev said.

“We offered to play a pairs or mixed doubles with a Ukrainian player, we offered not to go to the award ceremony [if we won].

“We really wanted to use the tennis platform to show the importance of world peace.”

According to the 24-year-old, the suggestions all fell on deaf ears.

“There was only one answer [from Wimbledon] – the Russian government will use the results of the Russians against everyone.

“No matter what arguments you give, Wimbledon's answer was just that,” Rublev told interviewer Vitya Kravchenko.

Rublev has previously described the Wimbledon ban as “discriminatory” and said the tournament would have been better off sending prize money to help victims of the conflict.

Rublev, who scrawled a ‘no war please’ message onto the camera at an event in Dubai back in February, also said he could have used his platform at Wimbledon to send a message from the court.

The Moscow-born star did not rule out a change of citizenship if bans against Russian players become even more restrictive.

“If we are banned everywhere at all tournaments, and I want to continue my career, then this is one of the ways out of the situation,” said Rublev.

“I won the Olympics in the mixed doubles [for the Russian team]. I want to believe that I will still play at the Olympics. I want to believe it. And I am extremely grateful that I managed to win the gold.” 

A citizenship change is also something that Russian women’s star Daria Kasatkina did not rule out as she spoke to Kravchenko as part of the same YouTube video.

“The Billie Jean King Cup was taken from us... With the Olympics, nothing is clear, and it’s in two years. In short, we are hermits. I don’t know what’s next,” said the world number 12.

When asked about a potential change of passport, Kasatkina replied: “We’ll see.”

The women’s WTA and men’s ATP tours have allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to continue to play as neutrals.

Both organizations reacted angrily to the Wimbledon ban, stripping the tournament of rankings points in response.

The WTA also fined the All England Club and the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) a collective $1 million.

Wimbledon is the only one of the four Grand Slams to issue a ban on Russian and Belarusian players, although the ITF has barred the two countries from competing at team events such as the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup.

Many pointed to the irony that a star born in Russia ended up winning the women’s singles title at Wimbledon this year. 

Elena Rybakina, who has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, defeated Ons Jabeur of Tunisia in the final to claim a maiden Grand Slam crown.