Wimbledon cave in over Russia
Medvedev and Co will be allowed to play this summer
WIMBLEDON will drop their ban on Russian players this year in the face of pressure from the tennis tours.
Players from Russia and its ally Belarus, including former men’s world No 1 Daniil Medevedev and reigning Australian Open women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka, were banned by the All England Club last summer after the invasion of Ukraine.
But they will now return to SW19, with strict conditions in place. It is understood that players will be kicked out of the tournament if they show any support for the invasion, and they will compete under a neutral flag.
The U-turn comes after the men’s and women’s tours stripped Wimbledon of rankings points last year. The LTA were also fined £1.5million for banning Russian and Belarusian players from warm-up events in the UK and faced the threat of losing their licence to host tournaments such as Queen’s and Eastbourne.
Wimbledon had stood alone among the major tournaments in banning Russian and Belarusian players.
Wimbledon are drawing up plans that would enable them to expel Russian players during this summer’s Championships if they show any support for their country.
The All england Club are expected to drop the controversial ban on Russian and belarusian entrants, adopted last year following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, on the condition that they follow IOC guidance by competing under a neutral flag.
but Wimbledon officials want powers to ensure this neutrality is strictly enforced before confirming their decision, which is not expected until next month.
Russian players will not be forced to make a public declaration of opposition to the war in Ukraine, as proposed by then sports minister nigel Huddleston last year, but they could be asked to sign a Code of Conduct before the tournament.
The details of that code have yet to be finalised but it is likely that any explicit show of support for Russia, such as carrying a flag or talking positively about the country, could lead to sanctions including a potential expulsion from the tournament.
it is unclear how the code would deal with players liaising with Russian fans, a problem which befell novak djokovic at the Australian open in January when he was photographed signing an autograph for a man who had earlier been seen wearing aZ T-shirt symbolising support for the Russian invasion.
djokovic’s father Srdjan also attracted controversy when a video emerged of him posing with a Russian flag alongside fans shouting, ‘long live Russia!’.
Wimbledon are also expected to ban Russian flags and symbols from the grounds, as was the case in melbourne. Four fans were kicked out of the Australian open for carrying Russian flags, but enforcement was patchy and the ban is likely to be policed more strictly at SW19.
Wimbledon’s proposed compromise solution is supported by the Government, who have made it clear they will not block visa applications from Russian players or demand a repeat of last year’s ban. There are three Russian players in the men’s top 50, including world no 6 daniil medvedev, and 13 players in total from Russia and belarus in the women’s top 100, including Australian open champion and world no 2 Aryna Sabalenka.
Wimbledon’ s apparent willingness to overturn the Russian ban will be welcomed by the lawn Tennis Association, who were facing the prospect of losing warm-up tournaments at the Queen’s Club and eastbourne at a cost of up to £20million. The licenses for those tournaments are already being touted around to other venues.
The LTA have been threatened with suspension from staging events by the ATP and WTA, who issued combined fines of £1.5m for british tennis’s ban last year.
A Wimbledon spokesperson said a decision had not been made.