Tennis fans have responded to the UK government after Wimbledon were told not to reverse their ban on Russian and Belarusian players competing at the tournament. The All England Club handed out the bans ahead of last year’s tournament after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Express Sport readers were asked whether they agree with the UK government that allowing Russians to play at Wimbledon would legitimise the country’s attack on Ukraine. And people were almost split down the middle as 47 per cent of our 9,778 respondents said they do agree, while 53 per cent of them said they don’t.
Last year’s men’s Wimbledon title was won by Serbian Novak Djokovic, while the women’s title was won by Kazakhstani Elena Rybakina, despite the fact she was born in Moscow and used to compete as a Russian player.
Wimbledon have now considered lifting their ban on Russian and Belarusian players after organisers were threatened with being expelled from the ATP Tour. In December, the Lawn Tennis Association were fined another £820,000 due to last year’s ban and bans at other, smaller tournaments across the country.
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And after the fines were handed down, culture secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning [Vladimir] Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine.
“The UK has taken a world-leading role to build this international response. We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries.
“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result. This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”
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Meanwhile, Russian world No 7 Daniil Medvedev admits he hopes he will be able to compete at tournaments right around the world throughout 2023 following his disrupted year last time around. “So far I haven’t heard anything, and I completely understand why we are not playing Davis Cup or United Cup and team competitions where we would represent our country,” Medvedev said ahead of the Australian Open.
“Yeah, hopefully I can play the individual events and, as I said many, many times last year, I play what I can play, so here I can play Adelaide, and I’m really happy about it, and I want to show my best tennis.”