As a response to the news that Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be banned from playing Wimbledon 2022 and all the UK grass-court tournaments leading up to the Grand Slam, the Belarusian Tennis Federation and the WTA/ATP have expressed their discontent with the decision in their own ways and will take certain measures to protect the players.
The Belarusian Tennis Federation released a statement saying that sanctions imposed by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) “in no way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis.”
They firmly believe that these types of measures lead tennis to global destabilization. As the WTA and ATP oppose these types of bans, the Belarusian Tennis Federation says that the inconsistent statements and actions between tennis organizations undermine their reputation and “confirm the incompetence and unilateral decision-making”.
The BTF points out that the development of sport and its popularization have taken a back seat as “international sports organizations have now been turned into an instrument of political pressure and manipulation.”
They proceeded to explain that wars have been going on all the time, but only now are these organizations deciding to react, which shows double standards:
“Throughout the history of tennis, armed conflicts have occurred in the world – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia and other countries, but never until now have tournament organizers suspended athletes from the United States, Great Britain and other countries, and other athletes have not pushed the public to division of tennis players on a national basis.”
The BTF has contacted international law firms to help them develop a strategy aimed at protecting Belarusian tennis players and tennis in the Republic of Belarus as a whole.
According to L’Equipe, WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon sent an email to players informing them that the WTA is considering imposing sanctions on Wimbledon and the LTA. However, it remains unclear if and how these restrictions would be implemented.
Moreover, ranking points at these UK tournaments are a large factor in the ranking positions of some Russian and Belarusian players, so the fact that they can’t go and defend their points would seriously disrupt the ranking system. Therefore, tennis tours are considering a rankings freeze, similar to the one during the COVID-19 tournament suspensions. A more drastic measure that is also on the table, according to DailyMail, is to strip UK events of ranking points.
The All England Club has made the move in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, explaining it as a way to pressure Russia to stop the war.