The WTA issued a statement against the step by the UK tennis authorities
Women’s tennis tour the WTA has joined the chorus of condemnation after Wimbledon organizers announced a ban on Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s tournament because of the conflict in Ukraine.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which hosts the Grand Slam played in June and July, confirmed on Wednesday that it would not be inviting Russian and Belarusian players to the famous grass court showpiece.
The AELTC justified the step by claiming it would be “unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”
It was also joined by the UK’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), which said it was barring players such as Russian men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka from all events on British shores this summer.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) reiterated its opposition to the actions of Russia in Ukraine but criticized the bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes as discriminatory.
“We are… very disappointed in today’s announcement by the AELTC and the LTA to ban individual athletes who are from Russia and Belarus from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events,” said the WTA.
“A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination.
“That principle is expressly set forth in our rules and has been agreed to by both AELTC and LTA.
“Prohibitions against discrimination are also clearly expressed in their own rules and the Grand Slam rules.
“As the WTA has consistently stated, individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.
“Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.”
The WTA and men’s counterpart the ATP have allowed Russian and Belarusian players to continue to compete as neutrals at tour events, but without any national symbols. The two nations have, however, been barred from team events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.
The WTA added that Wimbledon’s actions made it an outlier in the world of tennis, adding that it would be “evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions.”
The statement followed similar criticism from the men’s ATP, which said the ban was “unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”
Individual players have also spoken out, with Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic calling Wimbledon’s decision “crazy” as he spoke on the sidelines of an event in Belgrade.
The second Grand Slam event on the calendar, the French Open, has thus far signaled it will not take a similar stance to its counterparts in London, and will allow Russian and Belarusian players to line up freely for the clay court showpiece when it begins on May 22.
Wimbledon organizers added the caveat that they may reverse their position “if circumstances change materially between now and June.”