Wimbledon reinstates Russian and Belarus players ‘under conditions’ a year after banning them

Serbian Novak Djokovic, in the final of the 2022 edition of the 2022 tournament, against Nick Kyrgios, June 10, 2022.

After being reduced to an exhibition in 2022, the Wimbledon tournament aspires to regain all its finery for its 2023 edition. A year after having refused the participation of Russian and Belarusian players due to the war in Ukraine, and having been deprived of the allocation of points by the ATP (men’s) and WTA (women’s) circuits – a retaliatory measure – the British Grand Slam tournament announced on Friday March 31 that it intended to accept them under ” terms “ This year.

Read also: Tennis: Wimbledon reduced to an exhibition but with an intact luster

“Our intention is to accept participation from Russian and Belarusian players provided that they compete as ‘neutral’ athletes and fulfill the necessary conditions”, exposes the All England Club in a press release. Among the terms specified, athletes from both countries will be prohibited from expressing their support for the Russian invasion and from being financially assisted by Russia or Belarus.

In the wake of the move, Ukraine on Friday urged the UK government not to issue visas to Russian and Belarusian tennis players. “Wimbledon’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate is immoral. Has Russia ended its aggression or its atrocities? », launched on Twitter the head of Ukrainian diplomacy, Dmytro Kouleba. I call on the UK government to refuse to issue visas to their players. »

“Harmful consequences” in 2022

Last year, pushed by the British government, the prestigious Major on grass refused to Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part in its tournament. “In the circumstances of unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefit from the participation of Russian or Belarusian players”had justified the organizers in April 2022, taking the opposite view of the three other Grand Slam tournaments – Roland-Garros, the US Open and the Australian Open – where they had been authorized to participate under a neutral banner.

If the political decision of the All England Club had satisfied a handful of Ukrainian players and received the support of the tennis federations of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland, it was far from unanimous. The vast majority of the tennis world judged her “very unfair” as the Spaniard Rafael Nadal summed it up.

In retaliation, the ATP, which manages the men’s professional circuit, and the WTA, its counterpart for the women’s circuit, had decided to deprive the London tournament of ranking points, arguing that the principle ” fundamental “ fairness was called into question – the possibility for all to participate in all tournaments “on the basis of their merit and without discrimination”.

This retaliatory measure had cascading consequences on the rankings of the best players, who had lost their 2021 points without being able to score new ones – the male and female rankings being calculated with the results obtained over the last 52 weeks.

In its press release, the members of the All England Club acknowledged that their decision had caused a “strong reaction of disappointment” from “certain governing bodies of tennis”. And admitted that to repeat this year would have had “damaging consequences for the interests of players, fans, the Wimbledon tournament and British tennis. »

The ATP and the WTA welcome this backpedaling

Friday, ATP like WTA welcomed the choice of Wimbledon to reconsider its decision. “We are delighted that all players can participate in Wimbledon and other LTA tournaments [la Fédération britannique de tennis] this summer “wrote the two bodies in a joint press release, welcoming a solution “who protects equity” tennis.

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A year after the start of the war in Ukraine, the question of the reincorporation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the competitions from which they were banned is more than ever on the front of the stage. On March 28, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reaffirmed its desire to reintegrate the athletes of the two countries, banned from world sport after the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and banned from most international competitions. In response, Kiev said Thursday that its athletes were not allowed to participate in the qualifying events for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (JOP) in Paris, in which Russians would take part.

Read also: Paris 2024 Olympic Games: Ukrainians will not take part in the qualifying events in which Russians will be present

On Friday, when announcing its decision to return to a tournament where every player can compete, Wimbledon reaffirmed its opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine. “We always totally condemn the illegal invasion by Russia and we maintain our strong support for the people of Ukraine”insisted the president of the All England Club, Ian Hewitt, followed by the WTA and the ATP in their press release.

A year after winning a Grand Slam without winning a single ATP point, Serbian Novak Djokovic will be able to defend his title (from July 3 to 16) on the London lawn with more at stake. The organizers are now guaranteed to spare themselves the snub they experienced last year in the ladies’ tournament, when the Kazakh of Russian origin, Elena Rybakina, won the trophy in an edition where Russians and Belarusians had been banished.

Read also: Elena Rybakina, a coronation that crumples Wimbledon


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