Tennis: Wimbledon disqualifies Russian players

The second best ATP racket, Daniil Medvedev, will not enter the Wimbledon lawn at the end of June. The most prestigious tennis tournament in the world announced today that players from Russia and Belarus will not be able to take part due to the armed invasion of Ukraine by these two countries.

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Thus, the English tournament, the third round of the season’s Grand Slam tournament, became the first tennis tournament in which athletes were penalized in this way.

Since the start of the conflict in February, tennis players from Russia and Belarus have been able to continue playing professional matches, but under neutral banners. They were only excluded from team competitions such as the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup.

Several other sports organizations, including FIFA, which brings together international football federations, have already banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in their events on the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee.

“In the face of unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefit from the participation of Russian or Belarusian players. [au tournoi] “, the London-based organization explained in a press release.

“hard” decision

The decision will be reconsidered if “circumstances change radically by June”, shortly before the start of the event, which will take place this year from June 27 to July 10.

“We understand that this decision is hard on those who are individually affected, and they will regrettably suffer from the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” added Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Club, the site of the major on the grass. . . .

Among them are Medvedev, who was briefly number one this season and winner of the last US Open, as well as Andrey Rublev, eighth, and Karen Khachanov, 26.and.


Arina Sobolenko

Photo from the archive, AFP

Arina Sobolenko

Among women, Belarusian Arina Sabolenko, fourth in the world, is the best sanctioned player (see below).

Hostages, says the Kremlin

This decision was condemned by the Kremlin, which, through its spokesman Dmitry Peskov, stated: [qu’ils] make athletes hostages of political prejudices and political intrigues.”


TENNIS-ATP-MONACO

The ATP, the body that regulates men’s tennis but which Wimbledon and three other major tournaments do not depend on, also criticized the ban on Russian and Belarusian players, calling it “unfair”.

“Ethnic discrimination is also a violation of our agreements with Wimbledon, according to which the participation of a player is based solely on his rating. We will now analyze […] what is the consequence of this decision,” the men’s association reacted.

A similar statement was made by the WTA Women’s Federation.

Svitolina calls to condemn

Key athletes affected by this decision did not respond until several hours after this announcement.


Elina Svitolina

Photo courtesy, ZUMAPRESS.com/MEGA

Elina Svitolina

But today, Ukrainian Elina Svitolina called on major tennis federations to remove players from Russia and Belarus from their competitions unless they directly condemn the “invasion of Ukraine”, “military activities in Ukraine” and the “regimes” of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.

Some, including Medvedev and Rublev, spoke openly about the conflict in its early stages. The former said he wanted “peace in the world” and the latter notably signed “no war please” on a camera lens after winning a match in Dubai in February.

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a former world No. 1 and winner of two Grand Slam titles, said it “breaks her heart to see how many innocent people have been and continue to be affected by this violence.”

But these words and gestures seem insufficient in the eyes of the former top three leaders of the world, originally from Odessa.

“As athletes, we live in the eyes of the public, which places a huge responsibility on us,” she wrote on her social media. […] We noticed that some Russian or Belarusian players vaguely mentioned the war, but never once mentioned that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine. »

“In a time of crisis, silence means that we agree with what is happening,” the player added.

– With AFP


Major players excluded

MEN

  • Daniil Medvedev (RUS/N.2/26 years old): recovering from a hernia, for which he announced on April 2 that he would have one to two months. A finalist at this year’s Australian Open and winner of the last US Open, he reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon last year, his best four-match finish.
  • Andrey Rublev (ENG / N.8 / 24 years old): last year he reached the round of 16 on the London lawn, his best result to date. He reached, never surpassing them, to the quarterfinals in three other majors.
  • Karen Khachanov (ENG/N.26/25 years): reached the quarter-finals in 2021, his best Grand Slam result already achieved in 2019 at Roland Garros.
  • Aslan Karatsev (ENG/N.30/28): He never played in the main draw of a major before qualifying and reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open in 2021. At Wimbledon, he lost his only main draw match last year.
  • Also affected: Ilya Ivashka (BLR/N.44/28 years old)

WOMEN

  • Arina Sobolenko (BLR/N.4/23): She reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year and did so again in New York a few weeks later. This year she remains in the round of 16 elimination in Australia.
  • Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS/N.15/30 years old): Roland-Garros 2021 finalist, she never really shone on the grass. At Wimbledon, her best result is a quarter-final, achieved in 2016. She lost in the third round last year.
  • Victoria Azarenko (BLR/N.18/age 32): She has played twice in the Wimbledon semi-finals, but this applies to 2011 and 2012. She has since reached the quarter-finals again in 2015, but remains in the second round elimination last year.
  • Also concerned: Daria Kasatkina (RUS/N.26/24 years), Veronika Kudermetova (RUS/N.29/24 years), Ludmila Samsonova (RUS/N.31/23 years), Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS/N.39/27 years), Alexandra Sasnovich (BLR/N.50/28 years), Varavara Gracheva (RUS/N.73/21 years), Anna Kalinskaya (RUS/N.75/23 years), Camilla Rakhimova (RUS/N.95/20 years), Vera Zvonareva (RUS/N.100/37 years old) Source: AFP.

Other tournaments should not follow suit.

Eugene Lapierre Surprised by Wimbledon Decision


Director of the Montreal Open National Bank Eugene Lapierre during a press conference in August 2018 at the IGA stadium.

Photo courtesy of Martin Alari

Director of the Montreal Open National Bank Eugene Lapierre during a press conference in August 2018 at the IGA stadium.

There is no sign that Canada, in turn, will ban Russian and Belarusian players from their tennis competitions, says Omnium Banque Nationale de Montréal director Eugene Lapierre, who said he was surprised by the Wimbledon decision today.

“The tennis world seemed to unanimously support the decision [de laisser jouer les Russes et les Biélorusses sous drapeau neutre], Mr. Lapierre pointed out. We told ourselves that sport unites, that we are not going to punish athletes who have nothing to do with it and who mostly speak out against the war. »

The ATP and WTA, the two organizations that control men’s and women’s tennis respectively, have also sharply criticized today’s expulsion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from Wimbledon.

Roland-Garros and United States International have no plans to follow suit yet, even if, like the major contested in London, they are independent of the two tennis federations.

Other English tournaments

The only other events affected are expected to be those sanctioned by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the English equivalent of Tennis Canada. Today, the LTA announced that it would ban Russians and Belarusians from participating in its events.

These are mainly Wimbledon preparatory tournaments that are held on English soil, such as the Queen’s tournament for men and Eastbourne for men and women.

Because, Mr. Lapierre recalls, Wimbledon’s decision is largely political. “We understand that this is a very, very strong recommendation from the UK government that the LTA and Wimbledon have implemented,” he said.

The English government also responded to the announcement through sports minister Nigel Huddleston, who stressed Wimbledon’s “decisive action”.

“We are playing a leading role at the international level to ensure that President Putin cannot use sport to legitimize the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Banning athletes is a complex issue shared by public opinion, but a bigger reason is at stake,” said Mr Huddleston, whose comments were picked up by the BBC.

Not in Canada

In recent weeks, several major sporting events have taken place in Canada without the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

But they were banned by their federation, not by a ban on entering Canada. In particular, this took place at the World Championships in short track, which took place in Montreal in early April.

“Nothing proves [qu’une décision comme celle de Wimbledon] could be taken in Canada, Mr. Lapierre said. We all seem to pretty much agree that this could add fuel to the fire. »

“We would like the population of Russia to understand that we are not against them, but against their government. So if we start molesting their athletes, it could make them tougher in the opposite direction of what we want to see,” he continued.

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