Second best racket in the ATP, Daniil Medvedev will not tread the lawn of Wimbledon at the end of June. The most prestigious tennis tournament in the world announced today that players from Russia and Belarus will not be able to participate, due to the armed invasion of Ukraine by these two countries.
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The English event, the third round of the Grand Slam of the season, thus became the first tennis tournament to sanction athletes in such a way.
Since the start of the conflict in February, tennis players from Russia and Belarus have been able to continue to play professional matches, but under a neutral banner. They had only been excluded from team competitions, such as the Davis Cup or the Billie Jean King Cup.
Several other sports institutions, including FIFA, which federates international soccer, have already banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from their events, on the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee.
“Under the circumstances of unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefit from the participation of Russian or Belarusian players. [au tournoi] “, explained the London organization in a press release.
A “hard” decision
The decision will be reviewed if the “circumstances change radically by June”, shortly before the start of the event which will take place this year from June 27 to July 10.
“We recognize that this decision is hard on those individually affected and it is with sadness that they will suffer from the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” added Ian Hewitt, president of the All England Club, site of the major on grass. .
Among them is Medvedev, who was briefly world number 1 this season and winner of the last US Open, but also Andrey Rublev, eighth, and Karen Khachanov, 26e.
Among the women, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, fourth in the world, is the best sanctioned player (see below).
Hostages, says the Kremlin
This decision was condemned by the Kremlin which, through its spokesman Dmitry Peskov, declared ” [qu’ils] make sportsmen hostage to political prejudices and political intrigues”.
The ATP, the body that governs men’s tennis, but of which Wimbledon and the three other major tournaments are independent, also criticized the banning of Russian and Belarusian players, calling it “unfair”.
“Discrimination based on nationality is also a breach of our agreements with Wimbledon under which a player’s participation is based solely on their ranking. We will now analyze […] what follow-up to this decision, ”reacted the male association.
The women’s federation, the WTA, issued a similar statement.
Svitolina urges to condemn
The main athletes affected by this decision did not react in the hours following this announcement.
But today, Ukrainian Elina Svitolina called on major tennis federations to ban players from Russia and Belarus from their competitions if they did not directly condemn “the invasion of Ukraine”, “military activities in Ukraine” and “the regimes” of Presidents Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko.
Some, including Medvedev and Rublev, spoke openly about the conflict in its early stages. The first said he wanted “peace all over the world” and the second notably signed “no war please” on the lens of a camera, after winning a match in Dubai in February.
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one and winner of two Grand Slam titles, said she found it “heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been affected and continue to be affected by this violence”.
But these words and gestures seem insufficient in the eyes of the former world top 3, originally from Odessa.
“As athletes, we live in the public eye, which gives us a huge responsibility,” she posted on her social media. […] We noted that some Russian or Belarusian players vaguely mentioned the war, but never mentioned that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine. »
“In times of crisis, silence means that we agree to what is happening,” added the player.
– With AFP
The main players excluded
- Daniil Medvedev (RUS / N.2 / 26 years old): he is recovering from a hernia for which he announced on April 2 that he would have it for “one or two months”. Finalist this year at the Australian Open and winner of the last US Open, he reached the round of 16 at Wimbledon last year, his best result in four appearances.
- Andrey Rublev (RUS / N.8 / 24 years old): he had reached the round of 16 last year on the London lawn, his best result to date. He reached, without ever surpassing them, the quarter-finals in the other three majors.
- Karen Khachanov (RUS / N.26 / 25 years old): he had reached the quarter-finals in 2021, his best Grand Slam result, already achieved in 2019 at Roland-Garros.
- Aslan Karatsev (RUS / N.30 / 28): He had never played the main draw of a major before qualifying and reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open in 2021. At Wimbledon , he lost his only main draw match last year.
- Also affected: Ilya Ivashka (BLR/N.44/28 ans)
- Aryna Sabalenka (BLR / N.4 / 23 years old): she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon last year, before doing it again a few weeks later in New York. This year, she remains on a round of 16 elimination in Australia.
- Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS / N.15 / 30 years old): finalist at Roland-Garros in 2021, she has never really shone on grass. At Wimbledon, her best result is the quarter-final reached in 2016. Last year, she lost in the third round.
- Victoria Azarenka (BLR / N.18 / 32 years old): she played the semi-finals twice at Wimbledon, but that dates back to 2011 and 2012. Since then, she has reached the quarters again in 2015, but she remains on an elimination in the second round last year.
- Also concerned: Daria Kasatkina (RUS/N.26/24 years old), Veronika Kudermetova (RUS/N.29/24 years), Liudmila Samsonova (RUS/N.31/23 years), Ekaterina Alexandrova (RUS/N.39/27 years), Aliaksandra Sasnovich (BLR/N.50/28 ans), Varavara Gracheva (RUS/N.73/21 years), Anna Kalinskaya (RUS/N.75/23 years), Kamilla Rakhimova (RUS/N.95/20 years), Vera Zvonareva (RUS/N.100/37 years) Source: AFP
Other tournaments should not follow suit
Eugène Lapierre is surprised by the decision of Wimbledon
There is no indication that Canada will in turn ban Russian and Belarusian players from its tennis competitions, says the director of the Omnium Banque Nationale de Montréal, Eugène Lapierre, who said he was surprised by the decision taken today by the Wimbledon tournament.
“The tennis world seemed to have unanimously supported the decision [de laisser jouer les Russes et les Biélorusses sous drapeau neutre], pointed out Mr. Lapierre. We said to ourselves that sport was unifying, that we were not going to penalize athletes who had nothing to do with it and who for the most part spoke out against the war. »
The ATP and WTA, the two bodies that oversee men’s and women’s tennis respectively, have also strongly criticized the banishment of Russian and Belarusian athletes by Wimbledon today.
Roland-Garros and the United States International have not yet planned to follow suit, even if, like the major disputed in London, they are independent of the two tennis federations.
Other English tournaments
The only other events affected are expected to be those sanctioned by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the English equivalent of Tennis Canada. The LTA today said it would also ban Russians and Belarusians from its events.
We are mainly talking about preparatory tournaments for Wimbledon which are played on English soil, such as that of Queen’s, for men, and Eastbourne, for men and women.
Because, recalls Mr. Lapierre, the decision of Wimbledon is largely political. “We understand that this is a very, very strong recommendation from the government of Great Britain, to which the LTA and Wimbledon have complied,” he noted.
The English government has also reacted to the announcement through its Minister of Sports Nigel Huddleston, who underlined the “decisive action” of Wimbledon.
“We play a leading role internationally so that President Putin is not able to use sport to legitimize the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. Banning athletes is a complex issue that divides public opinion, but there is a bigger cause at stake,” said Mr Huddleston, whose comments were picked up by the BBC.
Not in Canada
Some major sporting events have taken place on Canadian soil in recent weeks without the presence of Russian or Belarusian athletes.
But they had been banned by their federation and not banned from entering Canada. This was particularly the case at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships, which took place in Montreal in early April.
“Nothing proves [qu’une décision comme celle de Wimbledon] could be taken in Canada, said Mr. Lapierre. We all seem to be pretty much in agreement that this is something that could add fuel to the fire. »
“We would like the Russian population to understand that we are not against them, but against their government. So if we start hitting on their athletes, it could toughen them up in the opposite direction of what we want to see,” he continued.