Wimbledon has confirmed that it will ban Russian and Belarusian tennis stars, including former men’s world No1 Daniil Medvedev, due to the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
Medvedev and women’s No4 Aryna Sabalenka are the highest ranked players affected by today’s announcement from the All England Club.
Others impacted are the former women’s world No 1 Victoria Azarenka and other top 30 women’s stars Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daria Kasatkina and Veronika Kudermetova.
“Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible,” Wimbledon chiefs said in a 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 with The Championships.
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”
Wimbledon will become the first tennis tournament to suspend athletes due to the war, but players are eligible to compete at all ATP and WTA tours without representing Russia.
The decision follows months of discussions with government. Last month the All England Club signed a statement saying Russia and Belarusian competitors would be “allowed to compete in international tennis events on tour and at the grand slams” as neutrals.
“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” said Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club.
“We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston welcomed the move by Wimbledon organisers.
“The UK has taken a leading role internationally to make clear that President Putin must not be able to use sport to legitimise Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine,” he said.
“Whilst the withdrawal of individual athletes is a complex issue that will divide opinion, there is a bigger cause at stake. We have set out our position with sport governing bodies and event organisers and will continue to encourage them to take appropriate action for their sport.”