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5 Jan, 2023 09:32

Australia rejects Ukrainian calls for Russian tennis ban

Russian players will be able to compete at the Grand Slam in Melbourne this month
Australia rejects Ukrainian calls for Russian tennis ban

The Australian Open has doubled down on its stance that Russian players will be free to compete at this year’s tournament under neutral status, after calls from Ukrainian officials for them to be banned entirely.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, demanded this week that officials at Tennis Australia (TA) should adopt the same position as British tennis showpiece Wimbledon and prevent Russian players from competing.

In response, TA dismissed those calls by repeating that the likes of former men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and his compatriots will be allowed to line up at the Australian Open later in January.

“Players from Russia and Belarus are only able to compete in international tennis events as individuals – and without flags or country recognition – which will be the case for Australian Open 2023,” read a statement from TA shared by Australian media.

The organization added that it nonetheless “continues to provide support to Ukraine and its community and players,” including in the form of a charity event ahead of the Australian Open.

A host of Russian and Belarusian have already been included on the entry list for the Australian Open. The head of the tournament, Craig Tiley, confirmed as far back as October that they would be welcome at the event at Melbourne Park in 2023.

Two-time Australian Open finalist Medvedev is already in the country and is currently competing at the Adelaide International, where he faces compatriot Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals on Friday.

“I can just follow the rules as a player, it has always been the same,” Medvedev told the media when asked about the Ukrainian calls for Russian players to be banned.

“When we were banned from Wimbledon, I couldn’t play, so I didn’t play. I’m a tennis player, so all the tournaments I can play all over the world, I’m happy to play. I’m happy to show up to play for the fans. That’s the only thing I can do,” added the 26-year-old.

Russian and Belarusian players have been cleared to compete as neutrals on the ATP and WTA tours, but are not permitted to play in team events – a position which ruled them out of the inaugural United Cup taking place in Australia this month.

Among the four Grand Slams on the tennis calendar, Wimbledon was an outlier last year after imposing its blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian players following pressure from the UK government.

There have been reports that British tennis officials are reconsidering that position for 2023. They were said to have been surprised by the backlash they faced, which included Wimbledon being stripped of its rankings points by the ATP and WTA, and UK tennis organizations being handed hefty fines.