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Wimbledon to ban Russian and Belarus players: report

LONDON (AFP) – Men’s tennis world number two Daniil Medvedev is set to be barred from this year’s Wimbledon Grand Slam tournament as The Times reported organisers are to ban Russian and Belarus players due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian players have been able to continue to compete in ATP and WTA events under a neutral flag since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

It was believed this would extend to the three remaining Grand Slam events – though the International Tennis Federation banned both countries’ teams from the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.

However, The Times said sources have told them that after almost two months of talks, Wimbledon organisers prefer to ban the players rather than adhere to a compromise solution offered by the British government.

That would have seen the likes of Medvedev and last year’s Wimbledon women’s singles semi-finalist Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus sign statements that they would not make supportive comments of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Wimbledon organisers believe signing such statements could impact negatively on the families of the players.

The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which oversees key Wimbledon warm-up tournaments such as Queen’s and Eastbourne, said last week they would follow Wimbledon’s lead.

“We think from a public perspective and indeed a practical implementation perspective that there needs to be alignment (between the All England Club and LTA), so it is really clear and understood,” said LTA chief executive Scott Lloyd.

“That is critically important.”

The Kremlin said yesterday that banning Russian tennis players from Wimbledon over Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine would be “unacceptable”.

“Once again they simply turn athletes into hostages to political prejudice, political intrigues,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Taking into account that Russia is a very strong tennis country, our athletes are at the top of world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their removal,” he added.

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev denounced the decision but added there was “nothing we can do”.

“I consider this decision to be wrong,” he told Russia’s Sport-Express news site.

Russian and Belarus players have been muted on the war though men’s world number eight Andrey Rublev did scrawl ‘no war please’ on a TV camera in Dubai just after the invasion took place.

Medvedev restricted himself to saying “I want peace in all of the world”.