Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be banned from competing in Wimbledon because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Belarus’ support of the ongoing war, the All England Club announced on Wednesday.
The ban will make Wimbledon the first tennis event to bar individual athletes from competing. Wimbledon is scheduled to start June 27.
“Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible,” the official announcement said. “In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”
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The decision would impact many highly-ranked players, including No. 2 Daniil Medvedev (Russia) and No. 8 Andrey Rublev (Russia) in the men’s field and No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) in the women’s field. No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) and No. 18 Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) would also be among those excluded in the women’s field.
“We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime, said Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club.
“We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”
“The Kremlin considers the removal of Russian athletes from Wimbledon unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday via the Washington Post. “(The players) are again being made the hostages of political intrigues.”
When the war started in February, team events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup banned the Russian and Belarusian tennis federations, but players from these countries could compete individually without national identification. The French Open begins May 22 and it will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes.
Contact Analis Bailey at email@example.com or on Twitter @analisbailey.