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  • Rikki Lambert

Medvedev, Azarenka out in Wimbledon's first blacklist since WWII

Russian player Andrey Rublev at the Dubai tournament in February

Wimbledon organisers say Russian and Belarusian players won't be allowed to compete this year, a decision which has infuriated the men's and women's tours, in effect knocking out .

Wimbledon has barred all Russian and Belarusian players from this year's championships due to Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. The decision knocks world No. 2 men's player Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 Andrey Rublev out of the tournament - and British lead-up events. Women's stars Aryana Sabalenka (4th in the world), Pavlyuchenkova (15th) and Victoria Azarenka (18th) are also out of the June 27-July 10 tournament.

As the war loomed, Rublev wrote on a camera at an ATP event "No War Please":

The All England Club (AELTC)'s decision has been condemned swiftly by the men's and women's tours, as well as by American great Martina Navratilova.

The move is the first time players have been banned on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were excluded.

In a statement on Wednesday, the AELTC said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to "limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible." Chairman Ian Hewitt said in the statement:

"We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime."

The ATP, which governs men's tennis, said the "unilateral decision" by Wimbledon to exclude players from Russia and Belarus was "unfair" and could potentially set a damaging precedent for the game.

"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings.
"Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our board and member councils."

The Women's Tennis Association said it was "very disappointed" with the decision and was now "evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions".

"Individual athletes should not be penalised 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."

Both tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, but allowed players from the two countries to continue competing on their respective tours as neutrals.

Navratilova, who won Wimbledon a record nine times between 1978 and 1990, called the move "the wrong decision", telling LBC Radio:

"Exclusion like this, through no fault of these players, is not the way to go.
"Tennis is such a democratic sport it is difficult when you see politics destroy it. On the women's side practically 10% of the field is not allowed to play.
"This decision was made in a vacuum by the All England Club. I understand their predicament but I just don't think they're seeing the big picture in a more global way. But I am devastated by the decision, quite frankly."

Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told the country's Sport Express newspaper that there was nothing it could do.

"I think this decision is wrong but there is nothing we can change.
"The (Russian) Tennis Federation has already done everything it could."


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