Russian and Belarusian tennis players were banned from featuring at the 2022 Wimbledon causing a huge uproar in the tennis community. In the article below, we look for the reasons why this transpired and other such incidents in the history of tennis and sports.
In the last week of April 2022, the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which hosts the tennis season’s arguably most prestigious Grand Slam, announced they will not be welcoming players from Russia and Belarus to feature in any of their competition.
Each year, players feature in multiple Wimbledon competitions with the men’s and women’s singles being the pride of place along with doubles, mixed doubles, wheelchair singles and doubles, wheelchair quad singles and doubles, and boys and girls singles and doubles.
And some of the top players from the aforementioned two countries participate in these competitions, weren’t able to take part in the 2022 edition of Wimbledon.
On the men’s side of the singles draw, Russians Daniil Medvedev, the world number two, Andrey Rublev, ranked seventh, Karen Khachanov and Aslan Karatsev are four of the players in the top 100 who could not make it to the tournament. Ilya Ivashka from Belarus was another player to miss out.
The women’s singles draw excluded Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka and Aliaksandra Sasnovich and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daria Kasatkina, Luidmilla Samsonova, Veronika Kudermetova, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Varvara Gracheva, Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova among others.
This does not include the long list of doubles, wheelchair and juniors players from Russia and Belarus who were also excluded from the competition.
The question therefore is why were Russians and Belarusians not permitted to take part at Wimbledon 2022? Simply speaking, Russian and Belarusian tennis players were declined entry at Wimbledon 2022 because of the role of their governments in the invasion of and the war against Ukraine.
Russian Invasion of Ukraine
While this isn’t quite a blog on politics, it makes sense to give you bit of a background on what’s going on in the Ukraine-Russia crisis especially since that is the cause for the Wimbledon 2022 ban.
On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine leading to a full-fledged war between the two nations and leaving multiple casualties. Three days before this, Russia had recognised the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, which were a part of Ukraine but controlled by pro-Russian separatists as separate states.
This was followed by the authorization to use military force in Ukraine as Russian president Vladimir Putin aimed to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine.
What Had Belarus To Do With This?
Belarus is a long-time ally of Russia and has provided them support in their attack on Ukraine. Some argue, Belarus had turned into an extension of Russian territory under the rule of president Aliaksandr Lukashenka.
How Did the Sports World Respond to the Ukraine Crisis?
For starters, sports and sportsmen and women from around the world responded to the Russian by pledging their support for Ukraine.
Sporting events which were to be hosted in Russia (and Belarus) were cancelled, including the prestigious UEFA Champions League football final which was to be held at St. Petersburg.
Players, managers and fans in the English Premier League football competition were given permission to wave Ukraine’s flag in their support while Benfica striker Roman Yaremchuk, who is a Ukrainian, was given the captain’s armband as a mark of solidarity for his country.
Schalke04, a German club, removed the logo of Gazprom, a Russian sponsor, from their jersey, while Manchester United ended their sponsorship deal with Russian airline carrier, Aeroflot.
The world governing body for track and field, World Athletics offered support to Ukraine, players from countries like Australia withdrew from diving and other events held in Russia and the Russian Grand Prix race on the Formula One calendar was also cancelled.
The International Judo Federation (IJF) went on to cancel the 2022 Grand Slam which was to be held in Kazan, Russia, while the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) ended all the World Cup and World Challenge Cup competitions in the two countries.
Other sporting bodies like National Hockey League (NHL), International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), World Rugby, International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), International Skating Union (ISU) and Badminton World Federation (BWF) among others all join hands in suspending events in Russia and Belarus or players from the two countries.
How Did Tennis Respond to the Ukraine Crisis?
The ATP and WTA tennis competitions which were to be hosted in Russia were also cancelled.
Russia and Belarus were banned from competing in team events organized by the ITF – i.e. events like the Davis Cup, Billie Jean King Cup, Wheelchair World Team Cup and Beach Tennis World Cup among others.
Players from those two countries were allowed compete in individual events but without their country’s flags next to their names
Even Russian tennis players like Andrey Rublev exhorted for peace over war, by signing the camera saying exactly that during a tournament in Dubai – he wrote ‘no war please’.
Russian tennis player Andrey Rublev writes “No war please” on the camera following his advancement to the final in Dubai. pic.twitter.com/GQe8d01rTd
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 25, 2022
What Did Wimbledon Do Regarding Russian & Belarusian Players?
Even as ATP and WTA, the men’s and women’s tennis governing bodies respectively, refused to ban players from Russia and Belarus from playing individual events, Wimbledon took matters in their own hands by announcing their own ban for these players from the 2022 edition of their competition.
In a statement released on April 20, 2022, Wimbledon said they would be declining player entries from Russia and Belarus. They said:
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.”
Explaining their stance, Wimbledon noted:
Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.
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.
Incidentally, Wimbledon were also supported by the Lawn Tennis Association, which is the official home for tennis in Great Britain. LTA also decided not to invite players from either country for the tournaments they organized, which included the Queen’s Club Championships, Eastbourne International, Nottingham Open and Birmingham Open.
What was ATP & WTA’s Response to Wimbledon’s Decision?
Both ATP and WTA expressed dismay over Wimbledon’s ruling, calling it a “unilateral” call which constituted a discrimination.
In a statement, the men’s tennis organization ATP said it was an unfair decision made by Wimbledon and LTA to exclude Russian and Belarusian players from their competitions and added it “has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”
“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings.”
The WTA expressed their disappointment about the announcement and added:
“A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination.”
Final Words on Why Russian & Belarusian Players Can’t Play at the 2022 Wimbledon
Unless something changes drastically between April and June when Wimbledon announces its player list, Russian and Belarusian players wouldn’t be allowed to feature in the 2022 edition of that Grand Slam. And it is down to the decision of their government to wage a war against Ukraine since February 2022.