Wimbledon: the fate of Russian and Belarusian players hangs in the balance
The Ukraine-Russia war affected the sports world as much as it divided the world. Almost all global sports federations have either banned athletes from both countries or banned them from competing under national flags. Tournaments in those countries have also been canceled.
Tennis, too, followed suit. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has suspended the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) and the Belarusian Tennis Federation (BTF) from participating in ITF international team competitions. Players can, however, continue to compete as individuals. The ITF also canceled “all ITF events taking place in Russia indefinitely”.
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Men’s Association (ATP) have suspended their combined event which was due to take place in Moscow in October. Players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete, but not under the name or flag of both countries.
With the French Open and Wimbledon in May and June respectively, all eyes are on the fate of Russian and Belarusian players. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) is in talks with the UK government about bringing players to Wimbledon this year. A decision should be made in mid-May.
“We have taken note of the UK Government’s guidelines regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian persons in a neutral capacity at sporting events in the UK,” Wimbledon organizer AELTC said in a statement. “This remains a complex and difficult issue, and we continue to engage in discussions with the UK government, the Lawn Tennis Association and international tennis governing bodies.”
Britain’s sports minister Nigel Huddleston said last month he would not be comfortable with a “Russian athlete flying the Russian flag” winning Wimbledon in London. He added that US Open champion Daniil Medvedev may have to guarantee he won’t back Russian President Vladimir Putin if he wants to compete.
Meanwhile, Medvedev expects to be sidelined for one to two months after undergoing hernia surgery. Medvedev will likely miss the French Open, which starts on May 22. He reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros last year after losing in the first round in each of his first four appearances there.
The 26-year-old Russian briefly topped the ATP rankings for the first time in February, before Novak Djokovic regained the top spot.
Medvedev beat Djokovic in the US Open final last September and then lost to Rafael Nadal in the Australian Open final in January.