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7 Dec, 2022 16:17

UK tennis slapped with another $1 million fine for Russian ban

The ATP has dished out the penalty to the British tennis authorities
UK tennis slapped with another $1 million fine for Russian ban

The ATP men’s tennis tour has fined the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) $1 million for banning male players from Russia and Belarus from British grass-court events leading up to Wimbledon this summer. 

Athletes from the two countries have been banned from numerous global events based on a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued in response to Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. 

Tennis has been an outlier, however, allowing Russian and Belarusian players to continue to compete as neutrals on the ATP and WTA tours. 

The All English Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and LTA took matters into their own hands by barring the likes of Russian men’s former world number one Daniil Medvedev from Wimbledon and other grass-court tournaments in the UK this year – in a move that was condemned at the time by the ATP and WTA.

The ATP has now handed down the hefty fine, which the LTA said it was “deeply disappointed” with in a statement.

“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government's response to that invasion,” the LTA said.

“The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules - with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.”

The LTA’s fine, which the ATP will donate to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, consists of $200,000 punishments for each of the five ATP events it staged this year without Russians and Belarusians.

These were the tour-level events at The Queen's Club and Eastbourne, plus Challenger tournaments in Surbiton, Nottingham, and Ilkley.

“The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA's fine will have a material impact on the LTA's ability to develop and host tennis in this country,” the LTA claimed.

“For example, we had intended to host a number of ATP Challenger level events to give more opportunities to lower ranked players in the first quarter of 2023 and will now not be able to do this, particularly given the possibility of further fines.

“We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA's decision and sanction,” it concluded.

The ATP said in April that the “unilateral decision” from British tennis authorities to ban Russians and Belarusians was unfair. Alongside the WTA, it then stripped Wimbledon of ranking points.

As the LTA’s statement implied, the WTA has already fined the LTA $750,000 for excluding female Russian and Belarusian players from its grass court events held in Nottingham, Birmingham, and Eastbourne. At the same time, Wimbledon organizers the AELTC were hit with a $250,000 penalty.  

On Wednesday, UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan slammed the men’s and women’s tours, which she claimed “are determined to be outcasts.” 

“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends and to reconsider,” Donelan added.