Wimbledon bows to pressure, lifts ban on Russian, Belarusian players
The third slam in the International Tennis Federation (ITF) calendar, Wimbledon, has finally bowed to pressure and lifted its ban on players from Russia and Belarus.
Wimbledon has also been allowed to award ranking points that were taken away from players that participated in the competition last year as punishment for the ban.
The Guardian recalls that Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina won the men and women’s titles respectively, but got zero ranking points.
A year after banning them from the All-England Club following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the players can compete but under neutral flags and will be ejected immediately from the tournament if they voice support in any form for Vladimir Putin.
Three Russian men are ranked inside the world’s top 15, including former world No. 1 and current No. 6, Daniil Medvedev, No. 7 Andrey Rublev and No. 15 Karen Khachanov. On the women’s side, world No. 2, Aryna Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, and No. 14 Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champ, are both Belarusian and will be permitted to play.
The decision is a 180-degree turn from a year ago when Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players in the wake of the war.
Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points and the Lawn Tennis Association heavily fined for banning Russian and Belarusian players from the championships and the ATP Tour events at Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.
“It’s really terrible because nobody supports the war, nobody,” Sabalenka said. “The ban didn’t change anything about the political situation and that’s the sad thing about it,” she added.
She said playing under a neutral flag in Melbourne made her feel as if she comes from nowhere but was better than not playing at all.