Russian tennis Andrey Rublev has slammed the lawn The Tennis Federation’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing at Wimbledon this year, calling the ruling ‘complete discrimination’.
The LTA announced on Wednesday that it would follow the precedent of other organizations, including FIFA, UEFA and Eurovision, by banning Russians from competing in high-profile international events to turn the Russian state into a sporting and cultural exclusion after President Vladimir Putin’s devastating invasion of Ukraine.
The UN estimates that nearly five million people have fled Ukraine since the attack began across land, air and sea in late February, while cities including Mariupol, Kharkiv and Kiev have been decimated by shelling. Belarusian players have also been ruled out because of their nation’s practical support for the invasion.
A statement from the All England Club on Wednesday read: “Given the profile of the Championships in the UK 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 possible means.
“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to take any advantage by involving Russian or Belarusian players in the championships.”
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to reject participation from Russian and Belarusian players for the 2022 Championships.”
‘The reasons they gave us made no sense, they were illogical,’ said world number eight seed Rublev, who wrote ‘now war thank you’ on a camera lens during the Dubai Tennis Championship after the war began in February. “It’s complete discrimination,” he added.
The 24-year-old urged the LTA to give Russian and Belarusian players the opportunity to participate if they sign an agreement ‘to give all the prize money for humanitarian aid – to the families who are suffering’.
Both the Kremlin and the Belarusian Tennis Federation reacted with disbelief to the LTA’s decision, with the latter not considering a formal challenge to a decision it calls “illegal”.
“Such destructive acts do not in any way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only encourage hatred and intolerance on a national basis,” the BTF said in a statement.
‘Throughout tennis history, there have been armed conflicts in the world – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia and other countries – but never before have tournament organizers suspended athletes from the United States, Britain and other countries. Illegal decisions by international tennis organizations in relation to our athletes undermine the reputation of these organizations. ‘
As things stand, the number two men in the world, Daniil Medvedev, is ready to miss the tournament along with compatriot Karen Khachanov. Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka will also not be able to compete.
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