Wimbledon divides the world of tennis

Wimbledon organizers announced on Wednesday the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the London Grand Slam on grass (June 27-July 10). The Major is the first to make this decision, which provokes a shout at the circuit.

Thunderbolt in the silent world of Wimbledon. The British Grand Slam tournament has decided to exclude Russian and Belarusian players from the 2022 edition of the big strawberry cream party. The Lawn Major thus becomes the first tennis tournament to individually exclude these players due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“In the circumstances of unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to take any advantage of the participation of Russian or Belarusian players,” the tournament organizers said in a press release issued on Wednesday, May 20. April.

“We recognize that this decision is hard on those affected individually, and it is with sadness that the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime will suffer,” added Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Club hosting the event.

Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka are absent

The ATP and WTA top 100 includes 16 athletes affected by the measure (four Russian players, one Belarusian, eight Russian players and three Belarusian players). Among the women, Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka (4th and semifinalist in 2021) and Victoria Azarenka (18th) will be missing, as well as Russians Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (15th) and Daria Kasatkina (26th). Among the men, world number 2 Daniil Medvedev and Andrei Rublev (8th) will not be able to defend their luck.

World No. 1 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic called the decision “crazy”, saying he would “always condemn the war, being the son of war himself” after his first match in the Belgrade tournament. .

Wimbledon organizers could reverse decision if circumstances change[ai]drastically in June, “the statement said.

The men’s and women’s circuits opposed the decision

The four Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open – are independent of the men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) circuits, where Russians and Belarusians can still compete in the tournaments under a neutral banner. . . . Both circuits have also criticized the decision taken by Wimbledon.

The ATP called the exclusion “unfair”, mainly because it extends to all of Britain’s turf court tournaments this summer, including Queen’s and Eastbourne, which are under the ATP umbrella.

“Discrimination on the basis of nationality is also a breach of our agreements with Wimbledon under which the participation of a player is based only on his classification. We will now analyze (…) the follow-up to be given to this decision. “The ATP stressed. in a press release.

The WTA was also “very disappointed” with the announcement by Wimbledon that it considers it “neither fair nor justified”, adding that it will also “assess the actions it can take” following this decision.

The delicate issue of sanctions on athletes

Following the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from numerous athletics and figure skating competitions, as well as the Beijing Paralympic Games, the Soccer World Cup, the World Championships. of swimming … tennis, Tournaments in Russia and Belarus have been canceled and both nations have been excluded from team competitions (Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, both won by Russia in 2021).

The consensus, however, was that it seemed difficult to imagine punishing people, far from being open supporters of Kremlin politics. Since the beginning of the conflict, the affected players have been discreet in their condemnations, although Russian Andrey Rublev wrote “No war please” on a television camera during a competition in Dubai just after the invasion. “I want peace around the world,” Daniil Medvedev said, recovering from an operation.

The Belarusian Azarenka, former world number one and twice crowned at the Australian Open, was more explicit. “It is heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been and continue to be affected by this violence,” the player said in March.

However, these statements are considered insufficient by the Ukrainian players – including Elina Svitolina (ex-No. 5) – who on Wednesday asked the ATP and the WTA to exclude the Russians and Belarusians if they did not respond correctly. three questions in a press release: “Do you support the invasion (…), do you support military activities (…), do you support the Putin and Lukashenko regimes?”

Therefore, the British government asked the Wimbledon tournament to go further. It was once a question of endorsing participation in an explicit and public condemnation of the war. However, the solution could have put the families of the athletes at risk.

“Once again, athletes are being held hostage to political prejudice, political intrigue (…) This is unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted even before the official Wimbledon announcement.

Excluding Germans and Japanese, not South Africans

Wimbledon has a history of banning athletes in retaliation for wars. After World War II, the British major had exiled the Germans and the Japanese. The English had not forgiven the bombing of the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1940.

On the other hand, if they have sometimes been deprived of the Davis Cup or the Fed Cup (now Billie Jean King Cup), South African tennis players have never been deprived of the grassroots tournament at the time of apartheid. . The newspaper L’Équipe also recalls that Johan Kriek reached the quarterfinals twice with the colors of South Africa, in 1981 and 1982.

As for the remaining Grand Slam tournaments of the season, the US Open and Roland-Garros, we are currently in touch. The American Federation stated that “for the time being, (it has not) made a decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian players” in the 2022 edition of the American Major. The same response from the French Tennis Federation (FFT) that Roland-Garros begins on May 23rd.

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