Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from Wimbledon and all other grass-court events in Britain this summer in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.
In an unusually punchy statement, the All-England Club said it had taken its decision because “in the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the Championships.”
The Lawn Tennis Association, which runs the other grass-court events in Britain, including the prestigious Queen’s tournament, confirmed that it would be also implementing a ban, which will leave players such as the men’s world No 2 Daniil Medvedev and the former women’s world No 1 Victoria Azarenka, out in the cold.
In a statement, the LTA said: “After careful consideration, the LTA believes that tennis must join many other areas of sport and public life in sending a clear signal to the Russian and Belarusian states that their actions in Ukraine are the subject of international condemnation.”
“The continuing participation of Russian and Belarusian nationals at events risks providing a boost to these regimes when there is an unprecedented international effort to isolate them and sanction their actions.”
The ATP and WTA tours, which only bar Russian and Belarusian players from displaying their national flags or playing their national anthems, is yet to respond to the decision.
The sports minister, Nigel Huddleston, has previously indicated that Russian players would need to denounce Vladimir Putin’s regime in order to compete in Britain this summer but Wimbledon officials decided that it would be unfair on the players to have to do this when many still have family in Russia.
Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, said: “We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.
“We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK government guidance but, given the high profile environment of the Championships, the importance of not allowing the sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships.”
The decision has already led to outrage in Moscow, with Britain accused of using sport to play political games.
“Given that Russia is a strong tennis country the competitions will suffer from this,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “To make sports people hostages of political intrigue is unacceptable. I hope the players won’t lose their fitness.”