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    Billie Jean King urges Wimbledon to lift Russia, Belarus ban

    MELBOURNE (AFP) – Tennis great Billie Jean King urged Wimbledon yesterday to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, saying “life is too short”.

    Players from both countries were barred from the Grand Slam last year over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the tournament stripped of ranking points as a result.

    The All England Club is considering whether to do the same again this year but King called on them to drop the ban.

    “Just keep it the same way as the other ones are. Life is too short,” she told reporters at the Australian Open.

    “I think they should get prize money. Just have them play and get their money.”

    Players from Russia and Belarus are competing at the Australian Open as independents under a neutral white flag.

    Two Belarusians – Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabelenka – are into the semi-finals and could meet in Saturday’s title match.

    Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan is also in the last four, despite being seeded only 22 after missing out on rankings points for winning the major.

    “It’s the ranking points, for sure. They have to have it. Rybakina, they’ve seeded her 22, but because she won Wimbledon she’s not (seeded higher),” said King.

    Victoria Azarenka of Belarus waves after defeating Jessica Pegula of the United States in their quarter-final match at the Australian Open. PHOTO: AP
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