Wimbledon Russia ban branded "unfair" as threat of legal action looms

Wimbledon ’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players has been branded “unfair” and racist by the ATP.

And a former Russian Davis Cup star has called on players to take legal action against the All England Club and LTA for excluding them from all grass-court events this summer. The ban was announced on Wednesday afternoon in reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But the move is set to spark a civil war in tennis where Russian and Belarusian players – such as Daniil Medvedev and Victoria Azarenka – have thus far been allowed to continue playing under a neutral banner.

An ATP statement said: “We strongly condemn Russia ’s reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war. Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings.

"We believe that today’s unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s British grass-court swing is unfair and 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.

"Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils. It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis.”

The WTA, which has until this point supported members' rights to keep playing under a neutral flag, is also expected to issue a statement later.

The decision leaves open the possibility of legal action from the 17 players currently in the world’s top 100 from the two nations concerned, who will be denied world ranking points and earnings. A first-round loser in Wimbledon's singles competition last year banked £48,000, while the champions earned £1.7m apiece. Russian coaches and line judges will be allowed as they are less high-profile.

Andrey Olkhovsky, who beat Jim Courier in the Wimbledon third round in 1992, tweeted: “In my opinion, it is necessary to file a class action lawsuit by athletes who are not given the opportunity to participate in the competition.

"Tennis players are not allowed to perform, to earn money for reasons beyond their control. This definitely has a very strong impact in terms of the standings. The Grand Slam tournament is the largest tournament in the world.”

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