In Roland-Garros, the Ukrainian war divides the circuit

Since the opening of the 2022 edition of Roland-Garros, the Grand Slam tournament has been buzzing with conversations that have little to do with what is happening in Paris. The announcement of the ATP and WTA circuits (the associations of players that govern, respectively, men’s and women’s tennis), on Friday 20 May, that they would not award points during the Wimbledon tournament, in response to the decision of the London tournament to exclude Russian and Belarusian players, has once again plunged the tennis world into the debates that have occupied it since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February.

This decision, which transforms Wimbledon – one of the most prestigious tournaments on the planet – into an exhibition that does not count for player rankings will cause a stir in the world rankings, because, every year, players must defend the points obtained during the tournaments. the previous year.

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“On a personal level, this will affect me negatively”, acknowledged London title holder Novak Djokovic. Already unable to defend his crown at the Australian Open due to his vaccination status, the Serb could lose his place as world number one after Wimbledon, in favor of Russian Daniil Medvedev. And this even though he manages to keep his title on the grass through the Sleeve.

But the latter does not do so against the institutions of his sport. “I’m glad the players and the ATP have teamed up, to show the Grand Slams that when they make a mistake – and Wimbledon does – there will surely be consequences.”insisted the hunter, Porte d’Auteuil, his 21i Grand Slam title.

In Paris, no flags, no mention of the country, no anthem

Still, the debate is tense behind the scenes. In this individual sport, many regret not being consulted. “The intention is good, but the realization is nonsense”said Naomi Osaka of Japan on Monday, considering not competing “This tournament, which looks like an exhibition.”

Never the last to express his thoughts, on and off the field, Benoît Paire fell into the debate after his defeat in the first round against Belarusian Ilya Ivashka on Tuesday. “I’m sorry for the Russians and Russia, but they’ve done the shit. All the ATP players in other countries are penalized.”, dug the Frenchman. Emphasizing this “99% of players want points and play a normal tournament,” Wonderful couple “rather the ATP defends the players or Russia.”

This point debate almost overshadows the question that provoked it: Should Russian players be allowed to participate in Grand Slam draws? Unlike Wimbledon, which had chosen to ban them in late April to prevent the Russian regime from making the slightest profit from its performances, Roland-Garros welcomes many Russian or Belarusian players, according to the decisions of the French government.

“We will apply the strict neutrality required [aux joueurs russes]. No flag, no mention of the country, no boards, no panels, no anthem, exposed Amélie Mauresmo, interviewed before the competition by Eurosport. But we do not want to punish the individual. »

This choice was welcomed by the circuit, but received with bitterness by the Ukrainian players. “Allowing a Russian tennis player to take part in the circuit is propaganda by the Kremlin, which politicizes sport.” exhibited Elina Svitolina in early May.

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The WTA, which rules the women’s circuit, was praised in late 2021 for facing China in the case of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player who disappeared from radar after being accused of raping a senior regime official. “The WTA has been very active in this regard, without hesitation in stopping all its tournaments in China, it was very brave, greets Svitolina. And there, while we are talking about an even worse situation, an ongoing war, they do nothing. »

At Roland Garros, compatriot Lesia Tsurenko, eliminated in the first round by world number one Iga Swiatek, poured on the loneliness of the Ukrainian players. First, thanks to Wimbledon, they would like to receive more support from the circuit, starting with their big names.

“In fact, you’re not interested in my game at all!” »

” For them [les joueurs interdits de participer au Grand Chelem londonien]it’s like they lost their jobs, she was breathing. But I, I feel a lot of terrible things and compared to that, losing the opportunity to play in a tournament is nothing. »

For their part, Russian players struggle to hide their irritation at being, over and over again, brought to war. “In fact, you’re not interested in my game at all!” », launched Karen Khachanov on Sunday after her victory in the first round to a journalist questioning her about the ATP decision. “It simply came to our notice thenrecognized the number 25 in the world. Everyone says we do [les joueurs russes et biélorusses] we are responsible, even if we are not. »

“You know, war is on the doorstep of my country, so I don’t care about points and rankings.”

Called – by Ukrainian players – to take a clear stand against Vladimir Putin’s regime, the Russian nationals on the circuit are walking on eggshells. It is difficult to express yourself when your actions and gestures are controlled by both the authorities in your country and abroad. “If I say one thing, I will be criticized, if I say the opposite, I will be criticized.”has highlighted the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, former world number 1.

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Like other affected players, world number 2 Daniil Medvedev has no plans to take the Wimbledon case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. “There may be room to file an appeal; but these decisions [concernant les joueurs russes à Wimbledon] they are not in my domain and I will not go to court for that “said Medvedev, on his arrival in Paris.

All these questions may seem trivial in relation to the situation in Ukraine. The big favorite of the women’s tournament, Iga Swiatek from Poland, tried to refocus the debate on Tuesday. “You know, war is on the doorstep of my country, so I don’t care much about points and rankings.” insisted the world number 1, who for three months has been playing with the colors of Ukraine glued to his cap. “I know that Russian and Belarusian players are not responsible for what is happening in their country, but the sport is often used by politicians. »

Aware that as athletes, she and her circuit teammates have an impact on public opinion, the winner of the 2020 edition of Roland-Garros concludes: “It would be good for decision-makers to make decisions to stop Russian aggression.”

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