Wimbledon to Allow Russian and Belarusian Players to Compete This Year
Last year, Wimbledon made waves when players from Russia and Belarus were not be allowed to compete in the 2022 tournament. This year, the tournament officials reversed their ban, allowing players from the countries to compete.
All England Club and the Lawn Tennis Association backtracked their ban, saying keeping the policy would have "damaging and far reaching" impact on tennis in England. "There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis," the club said in a statement.
In response to the ban last year, the men's and women's tour stripped ranking points from Wimbledon, rendering the tournament an exhibition. The WTA said at the time, "The WTA believes that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalized or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries."
Now, Russian and Belarusian players must compete as neutral, be prohibited to express support for Russian invasion, and not receive funding from their states.
"We continue to condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine," Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, said in a statement. "This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted."
He added, "If circumstances change materially between now and the commencement of The Championships, we will consider and respond accordingly."
There was speculation last year that the ban was in part to prevent the optics of the club's royal patron, Kate Middleton, with having to present a trophy to a Russian player. Yet, a native Russian ended up winning the women's tournament: Elena Rybakina, who was born in Russia but began playing for Kazakhstan at age 18, took home the title.
This year's decision brings Wimbledon in line with the men's and women's tour, and the three other Grand Slams (the Australian Open, the U.S. Open, and the French Open). In fact, in Australia this year, Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus won the title.
Wimbledon begins July 3, 2023, and goes through July 16, 2023 at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club in London, England.
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