Ukrainian ex-tennis player Alexandr Dolgopolov insists world No 1 Daniil Medvedev should be BANNED from playing, as he claims all Russians are ‘responsible for their government and their president’ as invasion of his homeland continues

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

Tennis world No 1 Daniil Medvedev should be barred from playing the sport due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, believes former player Alexandr Dolgopolov – who has hit out at the sport’s authorities for being ‘too passive’ in light of the country’s invasion.

Since Russia’s attack on Ukraine three weeks ago it has been reported that there have been 726 civilian deaths the UK’s Ministry of Defence said in its latest update on Wednesday night, citing UN figures. However, it said the true casualty figure ‘is likely to be significantly greater’.

Daniel Medvedev

As a result of the conflict, many sporting governing bodies have taken steep actions against Russian and Belarusian athletes. For example, Russian national and club teams were expelled from international competitions on February 28 ‘until further notice’ following the attacks. FIFA and UEFA did not specify their legal reasons.

Daniel Medvedev

In tennis, the sport has decided Russian and Belarusian players are not allowed to play under their country’s name or flag – instead playing as neutrals – and are banned from team competition amid the war.

However, Ukrainian Dolgopolov has criticised these actions as not being enough and is demanding more to be done.

The 33-year-old believes there should be tougher sanctions imposed on the players despite the likes of Medvedev and Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev calling for peace.

‘I know all those guys personally. I even played Daniil when I was playing. They are nice guys but no offence to them – I believe Russia should be blocked from any participant in any sport, in any culture,’ he told BBC Sport.

‘I think every Russian is responsible for their government and their president.

‘Just being neutral, taking away their flag, we know that is not changing anything. And even the sanctions that are happening now, even the destroyed economics it is not enough for [Russian president Vladimir Putin] to stop.’

Dolgopolov, who reached as high as world No 13 during his playing days, has returned to Kyiv to join Ukraine’s territorial defence unit and has had recent military training to learn how to use weapons.

Despite his arms to services, Dolgopolov has still spoken to the ATP (men’s governing tennis body) about going further.

‘I already said this to them that I think tennis is being too passive,’ he said.

‘I think it is not enough to say ‘we are against war’. We hear ‘we’re against war’ everywhere, in Miss Universe, in the Oscars. Yeah, that’s great, but they don’t ask the children or the women here any questions.’

Dolgopolov’s ramp further pressure on Medvedev and Co after Sportsmail detailed on Tuesday that the world No 1’s participation at Wimbledon is in doubt as he and others may be asked to denounce president Vladimir Putin and his brutal invasion of Ukraine, if they want to play at SW19 this year.

The government is in discussion with the All-England Club about the participation of players from the ‘pariah states’ in this summer’s Championships.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has revealed that he is actively looking at the requirements that will be placed upon individual athletes in order for them to participate in international events.

He said talks are taking place with sports as well as other governments to find a common approach.

In tennis, players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete as individuals under a neutral flag. However, speaking at a hearing of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Tuesday, Huddleston said that may not be enough.

Asked if he would be comfortable should Medvedev, currently the World Number One in the men’s game, play at Wimbledon in June, the minister replied: ‘This is a really important point because globally, or at least many, many countries around the world… we have agreed we will not allow representatives from Russia to compete.

‘When it comes to individuals that gets a bit more complex.

‘So, we are looking at and talking to various sports as well about this about this in terms of what the response and the requirements should be there.

‘Absolutely, nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed or enabled.

‘Many sportspeople have multiple citizenships, or dual citizenships, many of us would be willing to compete as non-aligned, non-flag bearing entities.

‘But I think it needs to go beyond that. We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to try and get assurances along those lines.’

Asked if he was speaking to the All-England Club about these plans, Huddleston replied: ‘We are in discussions.’

Pressed again by MPs and asked if players would have to ‘denounce’ the war in order to participate at Wimbledon, Huddleston replied: ‘We are looking at the mechanics of how we could work on that for individuals. We don’t have a solution at this moment in time but we are having those conversations.’

Medvedev, 26, assumed the number one ranking in the men’s game from Novak Djokovic last week, for the first time in his career. However, he is set to relinquish the top spot following a third-round loss to Gael Monfils at Indian Wells on Monday.

Monfils, a Frenchman, recently married Elina Svitolina, Ukraine’s biggest tennis star, who watched the match from the players’ box.

When the International Tennis Federation board met at the beginning of the month, it decided to exclude Russia and Belarus from international team events, which include the Davis Cup, the Billie Jean King Cup and the ATP Cup, but it refused to yield to international pressure to ban individual players from competition.

However, Medvedev appears to be aware the situation may change with his country being shunned on the world stage.

‘First of all, it’s definitely not for me to decide,’ he said following is exit at Indian Wells.

‘I follow the rules. I cannot do anything else. Right now, the rule is that we can play under our neutral flag.’

In total there are three Russians and one Belarussian in the men’s world top 100. In the women’s game, there are even more competitors, with seven Russians and three Belarusians in the top 100. Among them are former world No 1, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, now ranked three.

Write A Comment