tennis, a “model” under tension

Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk during the tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, April 26, 2018.

In Monte-Carlo, on April 16, Andrey Rublev not only broke his sporting glass ceiling by winning the first Masters 1000 of his career, the level just below the Grand Slams. The Russian also reinforced his sympathy capital with a short sentence dropped during the trophy ceremony. “Coming from the country I come from, receiving such international support means a lot”launched the 25-year-old player by thanking the public, who loudly encouraged him during the final against the young turbulent Dane Holger Rune.

In the Principality, Rublev did not have the right to the national anthem of the Russian Federation, nor to its flag, nor even to hear his nationality stated each time he entered the court. This has been the case for all men’s (ATP) and women’s (WTA) tournaments since the start of the war in Ukraine and the joint declaration of sports ministers from thirty-six countries signed on March 9, 2022 aimed at imposing on Russian athletes and Belarusians a regime of strict neutrality. The four Grand Slams – independent of the ATP and the WTA – are now in tune since the organizers of Wimbledon decided, at the end of March, to once again allow athletes from the two offending countries to set foot on the lawn of the All England Club. , after banishing them in 2022.

Without denying his country, Andrey Rublev openly opposed the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, from the start of hostilities, a message he has reiterated since. His victory over the Rock did not make anyone flinch in the locker room, where the personality of the Russian is unanimous, which undoubtedly did not escape Thomas Bach. The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended, on March 28, the reintegration of Russian and Belarusian athletes into international competitions, citing tennis as a virtuous example of their cohabitation with their Ukrainian counterparts.

“Very international” athletes

“Thomas Bach is in his role, namely to seek to maintain the neutral position of the IOC on an international scale by finding positive arguments”, analyzes Lukas Aubin, director of research at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) and specialist in the geopolitics of sport, while noting that “Tennis is a sport apart with very international athletes, who travel a lot according to the tournaments”. The word of most Russian players not residing in Russia is “a little freer than most other athletes training in Russia,” continues the researcher. Like Rublev, her compatriot Daria Kasatkina (world No. 8) has also publicly called for an end to the war.

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