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Wimbledon's ban on Russian/Belarusian players: Key questions answered after All England Club's decision

We look at what Wimbledon have said, what the current protocols are for Russian and Belarusian players on the tennis circuit, why this decision is so high profile in tennis, what the player response has been, the decisions of the other tennis Grand Slams, and what other sports have done

We look at the key questions and responses regarding Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian players (pics: AP)

After Wimbledon's controversial decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the 2022 Grand Slam, we answer the key questions regarding the ruling and response...

Wimbledon begins on Monday, June 27 and concludes on Sunday, July 10 in 2022, and is the third Grand Slam of the year.

What have Wimbledon said?

On Wednesday, the All England Club said: "We share in the universal condemnation of Russia's illegal actions and have carefully considered the situation in the context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader UK public as a British sporting institution.

"If circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly."

Wimbledon Championships
Image: Wimbledon, the third tennis Grand Slam of the year, announced a ban on all Russian and Belarussian players

Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, added: "We recognise this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.

"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."

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All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club's Ian Hewitt explains the reasons for banning Russian and Belarusian players from competing at this year’s Wimbledon

UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston welcomed the "decisive action" taken by Wimbledon, saying: "The UK has taken a leading role internationally to make clear that President Putin must not be able to use sport to legitimise Russia's barbaric invasion of Ukraine.

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"Whilst the withdrawal of individual athletes is a complex issue that will divide opinion, there is a bigger cause at stake.

"We have set out our position with sport governing bodies and event organisers and will continue to encourage them to take appropriate action for their sport."

What are the current rules?

To date, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been permitted to continue playing in ATP, WTA and ITF competitions as long as they do so under a neutral flag and with no anthem played.

The All England Club's decision - in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine - would be the first time Russian players have been expressly prohibited from competing in an elite tennis event.

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Barry Cowan says the ATP were ‘caught by surprise’ following Wimbledon and the LTA’s decision to ban Russian and Belarussian players

ATP, WTA and ITF tournaments thus far have allowed Russians - and Belarussians - to take part, albeit in a neutral capacity.

The ITF has however banned Russia and Belarus from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup, events where players compete for their country.

Why is this so high profile in tennis?

In an individual sport, such an action taken by Wimbledon means there will be notable absentees from the third Grand Slam of the year.

World No 2 Daniil Medvedev and World No 8 Andrey Rublev will miss out on the men's side, with the likes of World No 11 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and World No 23 Daria Kasatkina will miss out on the women's event.

Daniil Medvedev
Image: World No 2 Daniil Medvedev will be banned from Wimbledon as a result of the decision

In total there are four Russian men ranked in the ATP top 100, with eight Russian women in the WTA equivalent.

What has been the player response?

Speaking at the Serbia Open on Wednesday, reigning Wimbledon men's singles champion and six-time winner Novak Djokovic expressed his disagreement for the organisers' stance.

"I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war," Djokovic said.

"I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history.

"However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good."

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts as he plays Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina during their second round match at the Monte-Carlo Masters tennis tournament, Tuesday, April 12, 2022 in Monaco. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)
Image: Novak Djokovic said 'I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy'

Also speaking in Belgrade, Russia's Rublev said: "What is happening now is complete discrimination against us. The reasons they gave us had no sense, they were not logical.

"Banning Russian or Belarusian players...will not change anything.

"To give all the prize money would have a more positive effect to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering.

"I think that would do something. Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory."

Andrey Rublev (Associated Press)
Image: Russia's Andrey Rublev labelled Wimbledon's decision as 'complete discrimination against us'

World No 4 and 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal, who is a member of the ATP Player Council, defended his banned rivals.

"I think it's very unfair (on) my Russian tennis mates, my colleagues," said the Spaniard. "It's not their fault what's happening in this moment with the war.

"The 2,000 points, whenever we go to the Grand Slams, they are really important and we have to go to those tournaments. So we will have to see the measures that we take.

"At the end of the day, what happens in our game, it doesn't have any importance when we can see so many people dying and suffering and seeing the bad situation they are having in Ukraine."

WTA founder and 12-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King said the Grand Slam's decision was a "complex undertaking" amid the challenges and pressures they are facing but added she "cannot support" the move.

"One of the guiding principles of the founding of the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place to compete," King said.

"I stood by that in 1973 and I stand by that today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament, simply because of their nationality."

Belarus' Victoria Azarenka added: "If you are asking me if I agree with Wimbledon or I see their reasoning after being on a personal call with them, I don't see their reasoning.

"It does not make sense and it does not connect to what they are saying.

Victoria Azarenka of Belarus plays a return to Romania's Sorana Cirstea during the women's singles second round match on day four of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Thursday July 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Image: Belarus' Victoria Azarenka says the decision 'does not make sense'

"I think there should be a reaction to that, that is all I want to say.

"I have made my stance very clear on the issue. I will never, ever support war. I will never support violence. I will never find any justifications for that. That is all I can say right now."

An ATP statement read: "We strongly condemn Russia's reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war.

"Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings.

"We believe today's unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year's British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game."

Aerial view across the grounds as spectators watch the big screen on Aorangi Terrace outside court 1 on day seven of Wimbledon at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Picture date: Monday July 5, 2021.
Image: Aerial view across the Wimbledon grounds at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club

A WTA statement read: "The WTA strongly condemns the actions that have been taken by Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. We continue our humanitarian relief efforts to support Ukraine through Tennis Plays for Peace.

"We are, however, very disappointed in today's announcement by the AELTC and the LTA to ban individual athletes who are from Russia and Belarus from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events.

"A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination."

What are other Slams doing?

The upcoming French Open, which runs from May 22 to June 5, has refused to follow Wimbledon's lead in issuing a ban to Russian and Belarusian athletes.

French Tennis Federation President Gilles Moretton has said athletes from the two nations will be able to compete at the second Grand Slam of the season under a "regime of strict neutrality".

french open
Image: The French Open, which takes place before Wimbledon, have not banned Russian and Belarusian players

Moretton said the stance was in line with a joint declaration signed by Sports Ministers from 37 countries in early March in response to Russia's invasion, aided by Belarus, of Ukraine.

"The position has not changed," Moretton told L'Équipe.

"To date, we are in line with the declaration of March 9, 2022 by all the Sports Ministries of the European Union and other signatory countries, which aims to impose on Russian and Belarusian athletes, a regime of strict neutrality.

"So no flag, no anthem. We stay there. The position is that and we apply it.

"We are not going to go into the judgment and appreciation of the UK Government.

"Everyone has their position. It happens above the small tennis tournament that we are."

Wimbledon Championships

The US Open, which will take place between August 29 and September 11, says it has not yet made a decision on how it will treat the Russian players.

"The USTA acknowledges the difficult decision made by the All England Club to decline entries from Russian and Belarussian players to the Wimbledon Championships in response to the unique set of circumstances relating to their government's guidance," it said in a statement.

"At this time, the USTA has not made a decision regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players at the 2022 US Open.

Daniil Medvedev
Image: Medvedev is the reigning US Open champion

"We condemn Russia's unprovoked war against Ukraine, and the USTA has, and will continue to, support the Ukrainian people through on-going humanitarian relief efforts."

The 2022 Australian Open concluded on January 30, before Russia's invasion of Ukraine began.

What have other sports done?

In the world of football, FIFA and UEFA have suspended the Russian national team and Russian clubs from all competitions until further notice.

The Europa League last-16 matches between Spartak Moscow and RB Leipzig were called off, with UEFA confirming it suspended Russia's national club and teams from all competitions.

Fifa Logo
Image: Fifa and Uefa have banned Russia and Russian clubs from all competitions

In rugby, World Rugby suspended Russia and Belarus from all "international rugby and cross-border rugby activities" and the Rugby Union of Russia has also had its membership suspended. Russia will no longer be allowed to qualify for the 2023 World Cup in France.

Formula 1 terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix, with September's race in Sochi already cancelled and all future races in St Petersburg - where it was due to move in 2023 - also cancelled.

Haas ended the contract of Nikita Mazepin, who was the sole Russian driver in F1, and terminated their sponsorship deal with Russian chemicals company Uralkali. Russian drivers have also been banned from competing in the UK by the national motorsport authority, Motorsport UK.

Image: In Formula 1, Haas ended the contract of Russia's Nikita Mazepin

World Athletics had already suspended the Russian Athletics Federation because of doping violations, although some Russian athletes were allowed to compete as 'authorised neutral athletes' in track and field at the Tokyo Olympics.

In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, athletics' governing body banned "all athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus" from participation in "all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future, with immediate effect."

It has also banned Belarus from hosting European and World events, while the Diamond League also barred Russian neutral and Belarusian athletes from competing in the track and field competition.

Cycling's governing body (UCI) banned Russian or Belarusian national teams from taking part in any event on the UCI calendar and stripped UCI status from six teams from those countries, including the Pro Tour Gazprom-RusVelo team.

The UCI said it would not consider any team applications or requests to host events from the two countries.

Swimming's governing body Fina has taken away an award given to Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2014 and "until further notice" no athlete or official from Russia or Belarus can participate in an event and represent their country. They can only be accepted at events as neutral athletes.

Putin has also been stripped of his honorary taekwondo black belt, awarded to him by World Taekwondo in 2013. The sport's governing body has banned the Russian flag and anthem at events, and no events will be staged in Russia.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has prevented athletes from Russia and Belarus competing at the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing.

The two countries were initially set to compete as neutrals but the IPC reversed its decision in the wake of heavy criticism.

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