Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players because it is not ready “to be used for the benefit of the Russian regime’s propaganda machine”, says chairman Ian Hewitt.
The tournament is unlikely to falter moving, despite criticism from the tennis governing bodies and many players.
Wimbledon runs from June 27 to July 10.
“If conditions change significantly, we’ll be happy to review. At this point, we’re very clear about our intent,” CEO Sally Bolton added.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the grass-court Grand Slam also announced that players who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 will be allowed to compete at the All England Club.
Serbian Novak Djokovic, the men’s world number one and defending Wimbledon champion, was not allowed to play at the Australian Open in January following a dispute that centered on his not being vaccinated.
“The requirement set by the government to enter the UK does not include compulsory vaccination,” Bolton told the annual Wimbledon spring conference.
“Therefore, although it is of course encouraged, it is not a condition of entry.”
The decision to ban players is the ‘most responsible’
The decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament was “intensely harsh and distressing” but it was the only viable option under the guidance of the British government, Hewitt said.
The tournament announced the move last week in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Players are also prohibited from participating in any of the UK grass-court tournaments.
“It is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interest of the tennis world,” Hewitt said.
“Russia’s ongoing invasion has caused catastrophic damage to millions of lives in Ukraine and has been condemned around the world.
“The UK government has established directive guidance for sporting bodies and events with the specific aim of limiting the influence of Russia. We have taken that guidance into account as we must be a high-profile event and a leading British institution.
“Compelled to act, we believe we have made the most responsible decision under the circumstances.”
What has been the reaction to the move?
The ATP and WTA, the governing bodies for men’s and women’s professional tennis, said the move was “unfair”.
Some players, including Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, welcomed the action, but the former Wimbledon semi-finalist said Russian and Belarusian players speaking out against Russia’s invasion should be allowed to compete.
Russian world number eight Andrey Rublev called the Wimbledon ban “total discrimination” and “illogical”.
Djokovic said he did not support the “crazy” decision, while Martina Navratilova, who won a record nine Wimbledon singles titles, said excluding the Russian and Belarusian players was “not the way forward”.
Hewitt said Wimbledon had “carefully” considered allowing players to compete if they provided specific written statements.
“Even if we were able to accept players with written statements, we would run the risk that their success or participation in Wimbledon would be used to benefit the Russian regime’s propaganda machine, which we could not accept,” he added.
“We also have a duty to ensure that we do not take action against players or families at risk.
“We understand and deeply regret the impact this decision will have on every affected individual and so many people are suffering as a result of this terrible war.”
Men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev of Russia and women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus are the highest-ranked players to be affected.
Russia’s World No.15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who called for the war to be stopped earlier this year, and World No.18 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus will also miss out.
What else was announced about this year’s championships?
The annual Wimbledon Spring Conference is an opportunity for the All England Club to outline and discuss the key issues ahead of the upcoming Championships.
The other headlines announced by Bolton at Tuesday’s press conference include:
- Coronavirus: The entire tournament will return to full capacity for the first time since 2019, having initially reduced numbers due to Covid-19 measures when it returned in 2021.
- That means the exhibit patios will have 100% seating and up to 42,000 people will be able to enter the venue.
- There is no plan to implement any Covid-19 measures, although vaccination is recommended.
- Middle Sunday: On the first planned day of play on what used to be a bye day, there will be a half-hour celebration of epic matches and moments, with former champions and special guests in attendance.
- Last set tie-break: Agreed between the four Grand Slams, the final sets reaching 6-6 will be decided by the first to 10 and by two clear points
- Individual quarterfinals: Matches will be a mix of women’s and men’s on both Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Mixed Doubles Final: Given a “higher profile” by being moved to the second Thursday and played as the final match.
- Junior Championship: It was expanded with the addition of an Under-14 draw, giving “the best youngsters in the world the opportunity to compete on grass at a younger age”.
- Quad wheelchairs: The size of the draws has been doubled to eight singles and four doubles.
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