Melbourne: Wimbledon has barred all Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s championships due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, a decision which was swiftly condemned by the men’s and women’s tours as well as American great Martina Navratilova.
The move is the first time players have been banned on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were excluded.
The grasscourt Grand Slam is the first tennis tournament to ban individual competitors from the two countries, meaning men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev from Russia and women’s fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will be banned from the June 27-July 10 tournament.
In a statement on Wednesday, the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”
“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt said in the statement.
The players have also been banned from the UK grass-court tournaments held in the build-up to Wimbledon.
The ATP, which governs men’s tennis, said the “unilateral decision” by Wimbledon to exclude players from Russia and Belarus was “unfair” and could potentially set a damaging precedent for the game.
“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings,” the men’s governing body said.
“Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our board and member councils.”
The Women’s Tennis Association said it is “very disappointed” with the decision and was now “evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions”.
“Individual athletes should not be penalised or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries,” said the WTA.
“Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified,” the body added.