On Wednesday, the All-England Lawn Tennis Club confirmed the Wimbledon Russia ban. The decision was rumored for weeks, and will forbid Russian and Belarussian players from competing at the Championships. The ban also extends to the Lawn Tennis Association’s UK grass court events.
The decision will affect a host of top players, including Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, and Andrey Rublev. Crucially, the move does not make exceptions based on the athletes’ views on the war. Rublev, for example, went viral earlier this year for writing “no war please” on a camera lens in Dubai. The ban also applies to Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who has protested her government’s policies generally by refusing to compete at the 2020 Olympics under the Belarussian flag.
This Wimbledon Russia ban has split opinion in the public sphere and in the tennis world. Here are some of the most notable reactions from within the sport so far.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war. I know how much emotional trauma it leaves.
“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
The most high-profile Ukrainian player on the circuit, Svitolina is consistently one of the leading voices in the sport against the war.
The former #3, who is currently recovering from injury, has refused to play Russian or Belarusian opponents unless they were classified as neutral athletes. This stance was influential in the ATP and WTA’s decision-making.
In an interview with Sky News, Svitolina stated that her preference is for the athletes to play at Wimbledon, under certain circumstances.
“The best way is not to ban them completely, but make them speak about the war in Ukraine, to ask them if they support the invasion in Ukraine, if they support the government.
“And if they can answer those questions and if they say they that don’t support it [the war], they don’t support Putin, they don’t support Lukashenko, then they would be allowed to participate.”
The ATP and WTA
Both organizations have strongly condemned the invasion. The debate over banning Russian and Belarusian athletes has reared its head constantly. The ultimate outcome has been to allow them to play as neutral competitors, without national flags, anthems or colors. Distinguishing between individuals and governments has been key in this decision.
After Wimbledon’s announcement, both bodies came out in opposition. An ATP statement released Wednesday stated:
“We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”
A WTA statement read:
“As the WTA has consistently stated, individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”
Once ranked #13 on the men’s circuit, Ukrainian Dolgopolov recently enlisted in his country’s military to fight against the Russian invasion, less than a year after retiring from the professional game. The 33-year-old gave his support to Wimbledon’s decision, saying:
“Wimbledon isn’t going to stop the war, it’s just an extra sign of the world condemning Putin.
“The more of these signals, if it’s tennis or if it’s FIFA blocking them from football, it shows the people that Russia is doing something wrong.”
Dolgopolov also voiced criticism of the ATP’s position, stating:
“The ATP should have a stronger stance like many other sports. The magnitude of what is happening here is not [reflected] by their actions. Their actions are weaker.
Tennis wants to keep away, I think it’s wrong.”
Main Photo from Getty.