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Britain’s Wimbledon tennis tournament on Friday lifted the ban on Russian and Belarusian players and will allow them to compete in the next Grand Slam in July as “neutral” athletes. A decision described as “immoral” by kyiv.
Change of position for Wimbledon. Under pressure from the ATP and the WTA, the organizers of the London tournament announced on Friday March 31 that they would accept “under conditions” the participation of Russians and Belarusians this year, despite the continuation of the war in Ukraine, thus applying the policy of other Grand Slam events.
“Our current intention is to accept participation from Russian and Belarusian players provided they compete as ‘neutral’ athletes and meet the relevant conditions,” the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) wrote in a statement.
The organizers specify that they “will be prohibited from expressing their support for the Russian invasion of Ukraine” and that players “receiving financial aid” from Russia or Belarus to participate in the tournament will not be admitted. on the London lawn.
>> “Russian and Belarusian players excluded: Wimbledon divides the tennis world”
“We still totally condemn the illegal invasion by Russia and we maintain our deep support for the people of Ukraine,” said AELTC President Ian Hewitt, assuring that the decision announced on Friday had been “incredibly difficult”. to take.
Last year, pushed by the British government, the Major on grass had refused Russian and Belarusian players, angering the governing bodies of the men’s ATP and women’s WTA professional circuits.
They had decided to deprive the London tournament of ATP and WTA ranking points by insisting on the rupture, induced by the Wimbledon decision, of the “fundamental” principle of equity between all players to participate in all tournaments “in merit and without discrimination”.
“Strong reaction of disappointment”
On Friday, the AELTC acknowledged that its 2022 decision had provoked a “strong reaction of disappointment” from “certain tennis governing bodies” and that to repeat the ban this year would have had “damaging consequences for the interest players, fans, the Wimbledon tournament and British tennis.”
Also, the tennis circuits have welcomed the decision of Wimbledon for this year.
“We are happy that all players will be able to participate in Wimbledon and the other LTA (British Tennis Federation) tournaments this summer”, commented the ATP and the WTA in a joint press release which salutes the work done by all the parties concerned. to arrive at a solution “that protects the fairness” of tennis.
The two professional tennis bodies also reiterate their “unequivocal condemnation of the Russian war in Ukraine”.
In Kyiv, on the other hand, the foreign minister lamented an “immoral decision” and called on the British government not to issue visas to Russian and Belarusian players.
“Wimbledon’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian players to participate is immoral. Has Russia stopped its aggression or atrocities ?” Launched Dmytro Kouleba via his Twitter account.
Wimbledon’s decision to permit the participation of Russian and Belarusian players is immoral. Has Russia ceased its aggression or atrocities? No, it’s just that Wimbledon decided to accommodate two accomplices in crime. I call on the UK government to deny visas to their players.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) March 31, 2023
Participate under a neutral banner
Since the Russian invasion at the end of February 2022, Wimbledon has been the only one of the four Grand Slam tournaments to refuse Russian and Belarusian players. They were able to participate under a neutral banner and without mentioning their nationality at Roland-Garros, at the US Open and, at the start of the season, at the Australian Open.
“We believe that it is increasingly important in today’s tennis world that Grand Slam tournaments take the same position”, also recognizes the AELTC.
For its part, the International Federation (ITF) notes with a certain resignation the “evolution” of the position of the LTA and the AELTC, insisting on the fact that for its part, “it had suspended until further notice ” Russia and Belarus of international competitions under its aegis, and in particular the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.
“The ITF’s position on this matter has been clear from the start and remains the same,” she said.
Wimbledon’s reversal of position comes three days after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended the reinstatement of Russians and Belarusians in international sports competitions, under neutral banners and “in an individual capacity”, provided that they do not have not actively supported the war in Ukraine.
The International Fencing Federation was the first to take the decision to reopen its events to athletes from both countries. But this decision provoked threats of a boycott from Ukraine, the cancellation of tournaments in Germany, Denmark and France as well as a letter of protest from more than 300 fencers.