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Wimbledon defends ' the decision to ban Russians

Two All England Club officials defended the decision to bar players from Russia and Belarus from Wimbledon this year because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Edited by: Aachal Maniyar New Delhi Published on: April 26, 2022 23:41 IST
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Two All England Club officials defended the decision to bar players from Russia and Belarus from Wimbledon this year because of the invasion of Ukraine.

Citing the club's “responsibility to play our part in limiting the possibility of Wimbledon being used to justify the harm being done to others by the Russian regime,” Chief Executive Sally Bolton said, “we believe that this decision is the only viable option for Wimbledon.”

Among the prominent players affected by the ban announced last week are reigning U.S. Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently reached No. 1 in the rankings and is currently No. 2; No. 8 Andrey Rublev; No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka, a Wimbledon semifinalist last year; Victoria Azarenka, a former No. 1 who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open runner-up last year. Medvedev, Rublev and Pavlyuchenkova are from Russia; Sabalenka and Azarenka are from Belarus.

After Russia attacked Ukraine in February — with help from Belarus — tennis players from Russia and Belarus were able to continue competing but as “neutral” athletes not formally representing their nations.

Russia's athletes were prevented from participating in several other sports; its national men's soccer team, for example, was kept out of the World Cup qualifying playoffs for the tournament in Qatar later this year.

“We recognize that whatever decision we took, we'll be setting a precedent. We made our judgement in the context of the scale of the response to an international war, the consequences of which reach far wider than the sport of tennis. We appreciate that this is an immensely difficult decision on which people have different views, which we respect and we understand, and we are deeply regretful of the impact that this will have on every single player who is affected,” Bolton said.

Asked about the possibility of allowing players from Russia or Belarus to enter Wimbledon if they submitted a written declaration distancing themselves from Russian President Vladimir Putin — as proposed by British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston — Hewitt said: “There would still be the serious risk of participation and success of players being used to support the propaganda machine of the Russian regime. And we know that they do have a history of using sport to advance their cause. And that is a serious matter for us which we could not accept Wimbledon being part of.”

The French Open is the next Grand Slam tournament, beginning May 22, and is expected to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to play as “neutral” participants.

The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open, has not made a decision about players from Russia and Belarus; that tournament.

The All England Club said fans from Russia and Belarus can attend Wimbledon, but media from those countries will not receive credentials.

No decision has been made about Russian and Belarusian coaches or other support staff who work with players from other nations.

(Inputs from PTI)

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