Wimbledon reconsidering Russian ban – Telegraph
Officials at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) are having second thoughts about their ban on Russian and Belarusian players, according to The Telegraph. The apparent doubts from the organizers of Wimbledon follow the “unexpected strength of the backlash” against their policy, the UK newspaper reported.
The AELTC joined fellow UK authorities the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) in preventing Russian and Belarusian stars from competing at their events during the summer.
The move came amid pressure from the British government, but meant that UK tennis contradicted the position of the women’s WTA and men’s ATP tours – both of which allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals.
Wimbledon was stripped of its rankings points in retaliation for its “discriminatory” ban, while the WTA and ATP have since imposed fines totaling around $2 million on the UK tennis authorities.
Amid the scandal, officials at Wimbledon have “little appetite” to extend their sanctions on Russian and Belarusian players in 2023, according to The Telegraph.
A formal decision has yet to be made on next year’s Grand Slam, but the current stance of the AELTC is said to be “unsustainable,” given the response from the WTA and ATP tours.
A number of prominent players, including Serbian 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, spoke out against the Wimbledon ban when it was initially announced.
Wimbledon officials had cited UK government fears that the Russian leadership could supposedly use the participation of players as a “propaganda coup” amid its military campaign in Ukraine.
However, The Telegraph notes that Russian stars such as men’s former world number one Daniil Medvedev have steered clear of any political messaging – while compatriot Andrey Rublev has issued calls for peace on several occasions.
That fact – coupled with the severity of the fines levied by the ATP and WTA – is said to leave UK tennis bosses reluctant to press ahead with another ban in 2023.
Elsewhere, fellow Grand Slams in Melbourne, Paris and New York have all allowed Russian and Belarusian entry – further isolating Wimbledon.
Just this week, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach repeated his criticism of the UK government for intervening in sport and facilitating the Wimbledon ban.
In what many saw as glaring irony, the 2022 Wimbledon women’s singles title was won by Russian-born Elena Rybakina, who has competed for Kazakhstan since 2018.