Wimbledon drops ban on Russian and Belarusian players
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Wimbledon has lifted a controversial ban on Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this summer’s Championships.
The All England Club moved to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to last year’s tournament, citing advice from the UK Government following the invasion of Ukraine, but its decision was criticised by the other three grand slams and both men’s and women’s professional tours.
In response, Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points and the ATP fined the Lawn Tennis Assocation £820,000, after it backed Wimbledon’s stance and banned Russian and Belarusian from the other grass-court tournaments hosted in the United Kingdom.
The England Club’s decision sees Wimbledon fall back in line with the rest of the sport, where players from Russia and Belarus have been allowed to compete under neutral flags since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
A statement from Wimbledon read: “Our current intention is to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players subject to them competing as ‘neutral’ athletes and complying with appropriate conditions.” The LTA has also reversed its ban ahead of its summer’s events.
Wimbledon added: “The conditions have been carefully developed through constructive dialogue with the UK Government, the LTA and international stakeholder bodies in tennis, and are aligned with the Government’s published guidance to sporting bodies in the UK.
“The option of personal player declarations was not in our view viable last year. Since then, extensive engagement with the Government and tennis stakeholder bodies has clarified and developed the form of declarations and produced workable measures for their implementation and enforcement. This approach has the full support of the Government and the LTA, ATP, WTA and ITF.
“There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis.
“Tennis events outside of the UK have experienced a year of competition with players from Russia and Belarus competing as ‘neutral’ athletes. We also consider alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment.”
The ATP and WTA condemned Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from last year’s tournament as “unfair”, while accusing the All England Club of “discrimination” by excluding competitors based on their nationality.
When announcing its decision last year, Wimbledon said the move was intended “to limit Russia’s global influence”, adding that “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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