Wimbledon Bans Russian, Belarusian Players This Year After Ukraine Invasion

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 2022

Daniil Medvedev of Russia returns a shot from Jenson Brooksby, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Wimbledon organizers announced Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian tennis players will not be permitted to compete in the 2022 Wimbledon tournament because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams of Sportico were the first to report the ban of Russians, while Christopher Clarey of the New York Times reported that Belarusian players were expected to be barred from Wimbledon as well because of Belarus' role in aiding Russia's invasion.

All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said of the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players:

"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 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 2022 Wimbledon tournament is set to run from June 27 through July 10 at the All England Club in London.

The announcement noted that the decision could be reassessed if "circumstances change materially between now and June."

As of now, several top contenders on the men's and women's sides have been eliminated from Wimbledon before the tournament starts.

On the men's side, four top-30 players in the ATP Tour rankings are out: Russia's Daniil Medvedev (No. 2), Andrey Rublev (No. 8), Karen Khachanov (No. 26) and Aslan Karatsev (No. 30).

Medvedev is the biggest absence. The 26-year-old won last year's U.S. Open, marking his first career Grand Slam title, and followed that up by reaching the finals of the 2022 Australian Open.

Rublev is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, Khachanov won a silver medal in men's singles at the 2020 Summer Olympics, and Karatsev was a 2021 Aussie Open semifinalist.

On the women's side, three top-20 players in the WTA rankings are out of the picture: Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka (No. 4) and Victoria Azarenka (No. 18), as well as Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 15).

Sabalenka, 23, is in search of her first career singles Grand Slam title, but she has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world. She was also a semifinalist at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 32-year-old Azarenka is a former world No. 1 who is a two-time Australian Open champion, three-time U.S. Open finalist and two-time Wimbledon semifinalist.

Pavlyuchenkova is a 30-year-old veteran with a 2021 French Open finals appearance on her resume, plus she has reached the quarterfinals at each of the other three Grand Slam tournaments.

While Russian and Belarusian players have been permitted to play on the ATP and WTA tours this year in the wake of the invasion, they have had to do so under a neutral flag rather than those of the countries they represent.

Before Wimbledon, players are gearing up to compete in the French Open from May 22 through June 5.

There has been no word about whether tournament organizers will ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from playing at Roland Garros.