Wimbledon ‘lift ban on Russian players’ but issue new threat

Wimbledon will reportedly drop its ban on Russian and Belarusian players this summer, meaning the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka can compete at the All England Club. Players from the two nations will be able to return to The Championships under strict conditions and could be kicked out if they express support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian players were barred from competing at Wimbledon last year in response to the war in Ukraine. The All England Club is yet to announce whether they will repeat the ban again for the 2023 Championships but according to the Daily Mail, a solution has now been reached. The news comes despite a Wimbledon spokesperson saying a decision had not been made.

The Club has reportedly caved into pressure to allow players from the two nations back into the tournament, but they face the threat of expulsion. Athletes from the two nations are expected to be kicked out of the tournament if they show any support for the invasion of Ukraine.

They will also apparently compete as neutral athletes with no mention of their country or flag – a rule that has been in place across all tennis tournaments since last March. Reports state that players could also be expected to sign a Code of Conduct prior to the tournament with harsh sanctions for those who break the agreement.

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With the code said to be in the works, it is believed that “any explicit show of support for Russia, such as carrying a flag or talking positively about the country” would lead to punishment, including potentially being kicked out of the tournament. Wimbledon will also allegedly ban Russian flags and symbols from the grounds.

The Australian Open made the same decision in January after a Ukrainian ambassador complained about a Russian flag being on show during a match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russian Kamilla Rakhimova on day one of the tournament. The Aussie Open also faced issues when the police were called after some fans snuck in Russian flags and wore ‘Z’ t-shirts.

Eventual champion Novak Djokovic’s father was also caught posing alongside some of the protesters, with the world No 1 claiming his dad was “misused” and reiterating that he and his family would “never support any violence or any war.”

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The All England Club is not expected to announce any decision on banning Russians until their spring press conference next month. But if reports are true, the move to allow them back will come as a relief to the Lawn Tennis Association following threats from the ATP and WTA Tours.

Britain’s governing body for tennis could be expelled from both tours if they also ban Russian and Belarusian players from their pre-Wimbledon warm-up events for a second successive year. The ATP has also threatened to sell licences for tournaments like Queen’s unless players from the two nations can compete again.

Meanwhile, the WTA offered to retrospectively halve the £830,000 ($1 million) fine already paid by the LTA if they let Russian and Belarusian players compete at the likes of Eastbourne and Nottingham. The women’s tour also said the fine could be cut if LTA and All England Club were found to have made “appropriate efforts” to resolve the problem via negotiations with the British government.

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