Tennis Tours Penalize Wimbledon Over Ban on Russian Players

Unlike Wimbledon, the lead-in events in Britain have retained their ranking points despite being formally part of the tours. Wimbledon, as a Grand Slam event, operates independently but does have agreements with the tours on many levels. But the ATP and WTA chose not to strip points from the British lead-in events because other European tournaments were still open to Russian and Belarusian players during those three weeks of the season. The WTA did announce that it was putting the British tour events in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne on probation because of the ban.

There was also concern that without ranking points on offer, players would choose to withdraw from the British grass-court tournaments. Wimbledon, with its huge prize money and prestige, is unlikely to experience such withdrawals even without points, but there could still be some attrition.

Wimbledon opted for a ban after rejecting the British government’s suggestion that Russian and Belarusian players provide “written declarations” that they were not representing their countries; that they were not receiving state funding or sponsorship from companies with strong links to the Russian state; and that they had not and would not express support for the invasion of Ukraine or their countries’ leadership.

A few Russian men’s players had expressed willingness to Wimbledon to sign such a declaration and even donate their prize money to Ukrainian causes, but that was only a small number of the players concerned and Wimbledon was still worried that signing such a declaration could put players or their families at risk . It also expressed concern that Russian players taking part in Wimbledon might “benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime.”

However, some Russian and Belarusian nationals could still receive accreditation at Wimbledon this year as player guests or members of player support teams if they sign a declaration and meet other criteria such as not having a high media profile that could be used for propaganda purposes.

For now, Wimbledon and the British grass-court events remain outliers. No other tour event has followed their lead. Russian and Belarusian players, including tMedvedev and the women’s No. 7, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, are set to take part in the French Open, the next Grand Slam tournament on the schedule, when it starts on Sunday. The United States Tennis Association, which runs the U.S. Open that will be played after Wimbledon, called for the tours to reconsider and reinstate Wimbledon’s points but has made no move on banning Russians and Belarusians, whose citizens, it should be noted, continue to play for clubs in the National Hockey League.

After the war in Ukraine began in February, professional tennis moved quickly to bar Russia and Belarus from team events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, both of which were won by Russia in 2021. The tours and the International Tennis Federation also canceled tournaments scheduled to be played in Russia and Belarus later this year, including the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. The I.T.F. suspended the countries’ tennis federations from its membership as well.

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