Wimbledon 2022 will have a large dent in the player field as all Russian and Belarusian athletes will be missing from The Championships. Ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine started, tennis has been resisting to mix politics and sport, but the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) have now decided to ban Russian and Belarusian players from entering all the upcoming UK grass-court tournaments.
Last month, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon stated that athletes should not be victims of their government’s decisions and that banning Russian and Belarusian players from competition would not be reasonable. Players from those countries have competed under a neutral flag and have been kicked out of team competitions such as the Billie Jean King Cup, but other than that they’ve been allowed to continue their tennis careers as usual. The WTA is now “very disappointed” by these latest restrictions and labels them as a “neither fair not justified” discrimination.
The highest-ranked women’s tennis player affected is Belarusian world No.4 Aryna Sabalenka, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon 2021. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia and Victoria Azarenka of Belarus are other two Top 20 WTA players affected.
Interestingly, only players are suffering, while coaches, umpires and physiotherapists are not banned from the upcoming tournaments in the United Kingdom.
The AELTC justifies the decision as an effort to “limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible” and states that they are doing it with “deep regret” for the players. They released the following statement:
In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players.
The possibility remains that this decision would be overturned if the circumstances change by June, but it is highly unlikely. In the meantime, the AELTC is working to withdraw TV rights from companies broadcasting in Russia and Belarus.
The French Open, a clay-court Grand Slam which takes place in May, before Wimbledon, will welcome both Russian and Belarusian players.