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Ukrainian players call for more bans unless Russian & Belarusian players publicly confirm that they do not support Russian invasion

Ukrainian players have spoken about Wimbledon’s bold move to ban Russian & Belarusian players

Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Italian Open in 2018 Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Italian Open in 2018 Image Credit: AI / Reuters / Panoramic

On Wednesday, the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association took the bold move of banning Russian & Belarusian players from Wimbledon in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent conflict.

While reactions to the surprise announcement ranged from support to criticism for the ban, several Ukrainian tennis players, including Elina Svitolina, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Alexandr Dolgopolov, have asked more tournaments to follow Wimbledon’s lead and ban Russian and Belarusian players unless they publicly denounce the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In a message posted on Twitter, the 33-year-old Dolgopolov, who has joined the Ukrainian forces on the ground, said, “Thank you for the support UK. Any sport or business or really anything should take the same stance. Until russian people stand up and stop their bloody leader and all these war crimes and crimes against humanity. Wimbledon and UK showing leadership, to stop all this madness.”

Stakhovsky, a former world No 31 who has now joined the Ukranian forces to fight the battle on the ground, was among the Ukrainian players who posted a letter asking for Russian and Belarusian players to publicly confirm that they do not support the Russian invasion as well as the Putin regime.

The letter was also shared by former women’s world No 3 Elina Svitolina and 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk, among others.

Kostyuk, the current world No 52, also responded to Australian tennis player John Millman’s criticism of Wimbledon’s move, saying that her nation was looking for peace and freedom, rather than money.

Svitolina, who is currently on a break from the game as she deals with injuries & the difficulties caused by the situation back in her home country, told the BBC that they do not want a complete ban on Russian & Belarusian players but wanted them to speak out against the actions of their government.

ATP & WTA Tours criticise the Wimbledon ban on Russian & Belarusian players

The Wimbledon ban on Russian and Belarusian players is the first time that players from a specific country are being disbarred from one of the four Majors for the action taken by their government.

While Dolgopolov supported the Wimbledon ban, both the men’s ATP Tour and the women’s WTA Tour released statements on Wednesday saying they were not in favour of the ban.

In its statement, the ATP Tour said, “We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game. Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils.”

The WTA Tour in its statement said, “As the WTA has consistently stated, individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.  Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.  The WTA will continue to apply its rules to reject discrimination and ensure that all athletes are able to compete at our Tour events should they qualify to do so, a position that until today’s announcement has been shared across professional tennis. The WTA will be evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions.”

Men’s world No 1 Novak Djokovic and 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Martina Navratilova were among those who said they were not in favour of WImbledon’s ban

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