Wimbledon Bans Russian Players 

Move Stirs Controversy as Tours Ponder Sanctions

Wimbledon’s ban of Russian tennis players was always inevitable following the United Kingdom government’s firm support of Ukraine and widespread sanctions on Russians around the globe. The inclusion of Belarusian players in this ban too is a consequence of the nation’s support of Russia’s invasion.

The Lawn Tennis Association announced last week its decision to impose unilateral bans on all Russian and Belarusian players competing at this year’s Wimbledon. This has sparked controversy among players (former and current), media experts and fans around the world.

The respective tours (ATP and WTA) were quick to weigh in on the decision and are considering sanctions against Wimbledon. The ATP and WTA described the ban as “unfair” and “very disappointing.”

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic also came out in criticism of the All England Club’s decision, calling it “crazy.”

Russia’s No. 2 player, Andrey Rublev, blasted the move as “complete discrimination” while the Belarus Tennis Federation believes the ban will “incite hatred.”

The legendary Billie Jean King penned a thoughtful message on social media. She shared her thoughts on this polarizing ban. Martina Navratilova also came out in opposition to Wimbledon banning Russian players.

Wimbledon First Grand Slam to Impose Ban

Wimbledon, along with the preceding grass-court warm up events in the UK became the first individual tennis tournaments to ban players from these two countries.

At the moment, Russians and Belarusians are allowed to compete in ATP and WTA events, although they are barred from playing under their nation’s flag.

The UK government, however, left the All England Club with “no viable alternative” but to exercise a Wimbledon ban on Russia and Belarus.

Chairman Ian Hewitt highlighted this position during the All England Club’s spring briefing last week. “The UK Government has set out directional guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with the specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence,” Hewitt said.

In the main, the risk that the success and participation of players from Russia and Belarus would be used to benefit the  propaganda machine of the Putin regime was deemed unacceptable. Hence, there was no alternative to Wimbledon banning Russian players – and, by that same token, Belarusian players, too.

“We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible in the circumstances, and there is no viable alternative within the framework of the government’s position to the decision we have taken in this truly exceptional and tragic situation,” concluded Hewitt.

Betting on Wimbledon

The All England Club’s decision bars top players such as Daniil Medvedev, Rublev, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka. Wimbledon betting odds have been adjusted across multiple sportsbook exchanges to reflect their exclusion.

Medvedev was considered one of the top contenders in the men’s game prior to the ban, so his absence is going to have a significant impact on the tournament.

As things currently stand, Wimbledon defending champion Djokovic, who is now cleared to play after restrictions to unvaccinated players were lifted, is the player to beat at +110.

The next-best bet to win Wimbledon is 21-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal at +700. The 2021 Wimbledon runner-up, Matteo Berrettini, is priced at +800.

WTA, ATP to Discuss Strong Reactions

The WTA and ATP are set to discuss a response to Wimbledon’s decision this week as they meet on the sidelines of the Mutua Madrid Open.

Grand Slams are autonomous events, but possible sanctions include stripping the event of its ranking points. This would reduce the prestigious tournament to a glorified exhibition event.

Players as well could take individual action. At the crux of the matter is Wimbledon violating the right of players to compete based on ranking and not nationality, something Djokovic alluded to when speaking to the media regarding Wimbledon banning Russians and Belarusians.

“Competing is their right, there’s a rule against discrimination in tennis, which states that everyone can play according to his ranking and not his nationality. Wimbledon has violated it,” said Djokovic.

Wimbledon Looking for Allies

British tennis is hoping to garner support for its ban on Russians and Belarusians by a show of support from other nations adopting a similar stance. Only this way will British tennis potentially avoid its events from being sanctioned by both tours.

There is talk that the Italian Open next month might do the same, along with Scandinavian countries that are scheduled to host events over the course of the European clay and grass-court swings.

The most significant show of support to Wimbledon could come if the  French Open decides to follow suit and ban players from both these countries. Roland Garros is set to get underway on May 22 and, at present, the likes of Medvedev and Rublev are allowed to enter.

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