Russian and Belarusian players will officially be barred from the grass court Grand Slam

Wimbledon organizers will not allow Russian and Belarusian players to appear at this year’s tournament because of the conflict in Ukraine, it has been confirmed.

The decision was formally announced by the All England Lawn Tennis Club in a statement on Wednesday after widespread reports that a ban was looming for players from the two countries.

“Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom 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 means possible,” read a message.

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.

“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022,” it added.

The chairman of the All England Club, Ian Hewitt, claimed the decision had been taken “with sadness.”

"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,” Hewitt said.

The announcement added that “if circumstances change materially between now and June, we will consider and respond accordingly.”

Elsewhere, the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) also declared it was joining Wimbledon organizers in not welcoming Russian and Belarusian players to its tournaments, stating that the decision “means that British tennis is delivering a consistent approach across all events over the course of the summer.”

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Daniil Medvedev would be among the stars affected. © Julian Finney / Getty Images
Russian tennis players used as ‘political hostages’ – Kremlin

The decisions come despite Russian and Belarusian players being free to compete on the men’s ATP and women’s WTA tours, albeit as neutrals without any national symbols.

The Wimbledon ban means the likes of men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and fellow Russian top-10 star Andrey Rublev will both be forced to miss the SW19 showpiece, which gets underway on June 27 and runs until July 10.

Russian women’s world number 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will also be ruled out, as will Belarusian world number four Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, who is a two-time Grand Slam winner.

Prior to Wednesday’s official confirmation of the ban, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had said Russian and Belarusian athletes were being held “hostage” to politics.

“Given that Russia is a strong tennis country, the competitions themselves will suffer from their removal,” said Peskov.

“And once again making athletes hostages of some kind of political prejudices, political intrigues and hostile actions towards our country – this is unacceptable.”

Wimbledon officials have acted after UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston previously suggested that Russian and Belarusian players would be required to formally denounce any support for President Vladimir Putin or ties to the Russian government.

As a private members’ club, the All England Club can impose sanctions independently of the ITF, WTA and ATP, and reportedly without fear of legal repercussions.

WTA chief Steve Simon has previously said he would be strongly against a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian players.

“I don’t think you can just pick on the athletes,” Simon told the BBC last month.

“I’m hoping that we continue with the sanctions, we continue doing everything we can to get peace, but again these people are the innocent victims of that, and being isolated as a result of these decisions, I don’t think it’s fair,” Simon added.

The next Grand Slam of the season, the French Open, has signaled it will not impose a similar ban on Russian and Belarusian participants, with the clay court event due to begin in Paris on May 22.

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