Daily Mail

Wimbledon risks a row by inviting Russians this year

And what if Kate ends up having to give one a trophy?

- By Ryan Hooper

RUSSIAN tennis players will be allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year under plans to relax the ban imposed in response to the war in Ukraine.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club, whose patron is the Princess of Wales, last year barred players from both Russia and Belarus, its ally, from competing after Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion.

It meant the likes of former men’s No 1 Daniil Medvedev and current women’s top-five player Aryna Sabalenka were unable to compete in one of the most prestigiou­s events in the tennis calendar.

But the Daily Mail understand­s organisers are ready to drop the controvers­ial rule on the condition that Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under a neutral flag during the Grand Slam tournament. It is believed any outward declaratio­n of support for the invasion – such as a Russian flag or emblem, or comments interprete­d to be in favour – would likely lead to expulsion from the tournament. A formal announceme­nt is expected next month.

Last year’s decision to impose the ban resulted in the men’s and

women’s profession­al tennis associatio­ns stripping the tournament of its ranking points, effectivel­y making it an exhibition event. Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam to take such action.

The Lawn Tennis Associatio­n – the sport’s governing body in Britain – was also fined for banning

players from the championsh­ips and the events at Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.

It was warned that it could be stripped of its licence to host events if the ban remained.

Former Wimbledon men’s champion Sir Andy Murray told BBC

Sport: ‘It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren’t able to play last year.

‘But I also understand the situation and why it’s really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it.

The 35-year-old Scot added: ‘My understand­ing is that they are going to be allowed to play and I’m not going to be going nuts if that is the case... But if Wimbledon went down another route I would be understand­ing of that.’

Sir Andy received the ATP’s Arthur Ashe Humanitari­an Award for 2022 after donating more than £500,000 in prizemoney to help children in Ukraine, but has previously said he was ‘not supportive’ of last year’s ban. He had said last year that he had spoken to some Russian players and did not believe they were in favour of what was happening in Ukraine.

Wimbledon was not the only competitio­n to ban participan­ts last year. Russia football clubs were barred from the Champions League and their artists were excluded from Eurovision.

 ?? ?? Rivals: Daniil Medvedev beat Andy Murray in Qatar last month
Rivals: Daniil Medvedev beat Andy Murray in Qatar last month

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