Why in the world would the biggest tennis competition ban players from Russia and Belarus?
Did they personally have something do with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?
Men’s tennis world number two Daniil Medvedev is set to be barred from this year’s Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament for the sole purpose of punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian and Belarusian players have been able to continue to compete in ATP and WTA events under a neutral flag since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
It was believed this would extend to the three remaining Grand Slam events — though the ITF banned both countries’ teams from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.
However, sources reveal that after almost two months of talks, Wimbledon organizers prefer to ban the players rather than adhere to a compromise solution offered by the British government.
That would have seen the likes of Medvedev and last year’s Wimbledon women’s singles semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus sign statements that they would not make supportive comments of Russian President Vladimir Putin or the war.
Wimbledon organizers believe signing such statements could impact negatively on the families of the players.
The BBC reported that confirmation of the decision is to come later on Wednesday.
The Kremlin reacted angrily to the reports deeming it “unacceptable”.
“Once again they simply turn athletes into hostages to political prejudice, political intrigues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “This is unacceptable.”
Most tennis pros are in shock at the decision and have come up with a solution:
The WTA, ATP and ITF should ask Russian and Belarussian players whether they support the invasion, the military activities in Ukraine, and whether they are sympathetic to the Russian and Belarus regimes.
“If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in any international event, as Wimbledon has already done,” she wrote.
It is likely that this ban will apply to all British grass-court tournaments this summer.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which oversees key Wimbledon warm-up tournaments such as Queen’s and Eastbourne, said last week they would follow Wimbledon’s lead.
Russian and Belarussian players have been silenced in their condemnation of the war though men’s world number eight Andrey Rublev did scrawl ‘no war please’ on a TV camera when competing in Dubai just after the invasion took place.
Medvedev restricted himself to saying “I want peace in all of the world.”
However, Russia’s top female player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was more forthright.
“Stop the war, stop the violence,” she tweeted in March.
“I am not afraid to clearly state my position. I am against war and violence.”
Belarusian tennis star Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one and two-time Grand Slam title winner, was also outspoken.
It’s a left-wing version of the 1950s Red Scare all over again!
Author: Monica Hedren