Wimbledon has completed his about-face against Russian and Belarusian athletes by confirming that they can participate in this summer’s championships as long as they sign a declaration of neutrality.
While the decision has been widely anticipated in British tennis since before Christmas, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow for the All England Club after taking a moral stance on Vladimir Putin’s war last year.
Opposition from the two tours proved overly hostile, with Wimbledon stripped of their ranking points for the first time since the rankings were developed last summer. The wider British tennis ecosystem also suffered as the Lawn Tennis Association received heavy fines for following the lead of the AELTC.
“We continue to strongly condemn the illegal invasion of Russia and wholeheartedly support the people of Ukraine,” said Ian Hewitt, the chair of the AELTC, in a statement. “This was an incredibly difficult decision that was not made lightly or without much consideration for those involved.”
The LTA has also changed its position to align with the AELTC. There was little practical alternative considering the tours threatened to cancel events like Queen’s and Eastbourne and sell those franchises abroad if the ban continued.
Despite the frustration expressed by leading Ukrainian players such as Martya Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko, the men’s and women’s tours refused to see any value in the argument that Russians and Belarusians should suffer for their governments’ actions.
In fact, the two tours were so determined to welcome Russian and Belarusian players that last week IOC President Thomas Bach cited tennis as his prime example when arguing that the Olympics should also admit athletes from those countries.
In a sport known for its divisiveness, bitterness over the issue has further strained ties between the four Grand Slams and the two tours. This is reflected in the wording of the AELTC’s statement: “There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies… last year with consequences which, if continued, would harm the interests of players, fans, the Championships and British tennis would .”
To justify the change of stance, the AELTC pointed out that a year of tennis competitions had passed without any player speaking out politically in favor of the war in Ukraine. The two most notable incidents involved the pro-war demonstration by fans on the steps of Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in January – which caused controversy when Novak Djokovic’s father Srdjan posed for photos with flag-wavers – and the Spartak Moscow football shirt worn by Russians Player Anastasia Potapova two weeks ago on her way to the court in Indian Wells.
The AELTC also said that they had worked out a formula for a declaration of neutrality that would have to be signed by all Russian and Belarusian players.
The statement said: “These prohibit statements of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in various forms and ban entry to players who receive funding from the Russian and/or Belarusian states (including sponsorship of companies operated or owned by the states). to be controlled). their participation in the championships.”
Source : sports.yahoo.com