The three main tours allow Russian players to compete without flags or anthems but it appears likely that the All England Club will impose stricter measures when Wimbledon begins this summer
Wimbledon officials are on hand to ban Daniil Medvedev from this year’s Championships over fears a Russian victory would boost Vladimir Putin ’s regime amid the invasion of Ukraine.
The All England Club have been advised that their independent tournament status means they could implement a ban on Russian players that fail to condemn the actions of Putin – and not face legal repercussions. Other events on the Tour have remained neutral due to fears they could be taken to court, but the London tournament possesses a different status.
The three main tennis tours administered by the ATP, the WTA and the ITF have thus far allowed Russian athletes to continue playing as long as they compete under a neutral flag and with no anthem played. However, a spokesman for the AELTC appears to have confirmed the Championships may ask Russian athletes to go a step further.
“Private member clubs have more freedom as to who to allow in or not, so they wouldn’t be subject to the same discrimination laws as the tours,” the spokesman said. “If you are running the main tennis tour, you have the freedom to ban players – if they have been found guilty of match-fixing or doping, for instance – but you have to be able to show that this course of action is reasonable.
“In this instance, if the tours took strong action, Russians players could argue that they are being prevented from making a living through no fault of their own. That is not so much of an issue for Wimbledon, however.”
Wimbledon’s deadline for entry is set for sometime in mid-May, and the AELTC are hoping to release their policy in the next month or so. It would allow impacted players to know what is expected of them if they hope to play at the grass-court grand slam.
Recent horrifying images of war crimes committed in the suburbs of Kyiv have only added weight to the words of sports minister Nigel Huddlestone, who declared Putin must not be allowed to take political advantage of any Russian athletes and their achievements in Britain. Huddlestone has already suggested that Medvedev and Belarusian world number five Aryna Sabalenka should only be allowed to participate in major sporting events in the UK as long as they sign a form denouncing Putin and his actions.
“We wish to get assurance in a written declaration that they are not receiving money from Putin, Russia or Belarus [and] that they will not be making supportive comments of Putin, Russia or Belarus,” Huddleston said last week.
In practice, it would appear such a move would be too dangerous for any Russian players providing they have family in their native country. It means there is a realistic chance that Wimbledon will go ahead without any Russian athletes involved.
The stance of Wimbledon will undoubtedly place pressure on other grass-court events set to be staged in the UK, such as Queen’s. The Lawn Tennis Association insist they are in talks with the tours over this issue – as well as the AELTC – but they reportedly conceded they have less time and sway to enact such a decision than Wimbledon.
Huddlestone is most concerned about the participation and performance of world number two Medvedev. Meanwhile, the Russian announced over the weekend that he has been suffering from a hernia and is set to miss the next two months of tennis.