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‘Don’t be distracted from the actual issue’: Andy Murray calls on tennis to support Ukrainians after Wimbledon lifts ban on Russians and Belarusians

The Scot, who donated all his winnings in 2022 to humanitarian causes in Ukraine, tells Simon Cambers exclusively that he wants more to be done for those affected the most

Andy Murray Tennis – Wimbledon – All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain – July 3, 2022 Britain’s Andy Murray is seen during centre court centenary celebrations (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

As a member of the All England Club, Andy Murray had a heads-up on the recent decision, announced at the end of March, to lift the ban on Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s Championships.

It was a decision that Wimbledon effectively felt forced into, after none of the other Grand Slams nor the Tours backed their ban, imposed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After the British Lawn Tennis Association was threatened with seeing its grass-court tournaments removed from the official calendar, Wimbledon announced Russian and Belarusians would be readmitted in 2023, albeit on a conditional basis, including the requirement to sign a declaration of neutrality.

Speaking exclusively to Tennis Majors at the Monte-Carlo Masters, shortly after his first-round exit on Monday, Murray said he believes tennis must now do everything it can to help Ukrainian players, their families and Ukraine in general.

Andy Murray
Britain’s Andy Murray reacts during his first-round match in Monte-Carlo against Australia’s Alex de Minaur (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

“I knew kind of ahead of time that that was sort of how it was going,” he said of the decision. “I think what’s really important is to continue to talk about what’s actually happening in Ukraine just now, not focusing on a few tennis players and a few athletes who may or may not be able to play major sporting events.”

Murray said the lack of support from the rest of the tennis world left Wimbledon with very little choice.

“It’s a difficult decision for Wimbledon,” he said. “Obviously the rest of the sport had gone in a completely different direction to them, which made it very hard. But I don’t think this should be so much about that decision. I think it is distracting a little bit from actually what is taking place. You don’t want that to happen. You want the actual issue to be at the forefront of all of these discussions.”

Murray: “Ukrainian players and families are going through unbelievably hard times”

Murray was given the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2022 by the ATP in recognition of his support for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. Starting in Indian Wells, he donated all of his prize money to humanitarian causes, totalling more than £630,000.

The two-time Wimbledon champion said he feels for all the players affected and like Petra Kvitova, who spoke out during her recent run to the title in Miami, he wants more to be done.

“Obviously I have sympathy for the Ukrainian players,” he said. “I’ve seen that some of the female players (notably Elena Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk) have spoken out about how difficult they found it and maybe felt like they could have had more support as well through that.

“You need to understand their perspective as well, and not just the players that weren’t allowed to play last year. There are Ukrainian players on the tour whose families and everything (are affected) and they’re going through unbelievably difficult times as well. And that’s what’s important.”

Wimbledon, meanwhile is, likely to announce further contributions to humanitarian causes in Ukraine. Last year, they made significant donations via the Wimbledon Foundation to the crisis response, in addition to donations to the British Red Cross and Tennis Plays for Peace initiative.

A total of 1300 refugees, who had been resettled in Merton and Wandsworth Councils were also invited to Middle Sunday last year.

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