The tournament’s chairman, Ian Hewitt, said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had placed organizers in “an extreme and exceptional situation”, adding that the decision to introduce a player ban was made in accordance with guidelines from the British government.
“First, even if we accepted submissions from Russian and Belarusian players with written statements, we would risk their success or participation in Wimbledon being used to benefit the Russian regime’s propaganda machine, which we do not could accept,” Hewitt told reporters. on Tuesday.
“Secondly, we have a duty to ensure that no action we take endangers the safety of players or their families.
“We deeply understand and deeply regret the impact this decision will have on every individual affected – and so many innocent people are suffering as a result of this terrible war.”
‘Right and responsible decision’
“It’s not discrimination in the form that is said,” Hewitt said. “It is a considered opinion that has been reached about what is the right and responsible decision under all circumstances.”
He added: “We know they [Russia] have a history of using sport to advance their cause and that’s serious business for us that we couldn’t accept Wimbledon being a part of.”
The Kremlin has previously said a ban on Russian players’ participation in Wimbledon as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “unacceptable”.
“It is unacceptable to make athletes victims of any kind of political prejudice, intrigue, hostile actions against our country. One can only regret this,” Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said during a conference call with reporters earlier this month.
While individual players from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete as neutral in the ATP and WTA Tours, this is the first time they have been banned from participating in an elite tennis event.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) decision will affect all of this year’s British grass courtswing tournaments, as well as the grand slam.
Rublev, who wrote “No war please” on a TV camera during a matchday after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, will miss this year’s Wimbledon alongside compatriot and world champion Daniil Medvedev and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, currently fourth. in the world and a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, and Victoria Azarenka, a former world No.1.
“We are in constant dialogue with the players, the tours, the ITF and with our fellow grand slams, and will continue to work with them in the coming weeks,” Wimbledon chief executive Sally Bolton told reporters.
Bolton added that some involved players were consulted before a decision on the ban was made, but declined to provide specific details about those talks.
She also stressed that the current ban affected “players only,” but said the tournament will reject accreditation requests from Russian media.
Talks are underway between Wimbledon and the British government over whether Russian and Belarusian support staff and coaches will be admitted to the tournament.
Last week, WTA CEO Steve Simon told The Tennis Podcast that the ban on Russian and Belarusian players was “extremely disappointing”.
“The one thing we’ve always agreed on” [in tennis] is that participation in our events … is always based on merit and without discrimination,” he said.
In a statement last week, the ATP Tour also said the decision to exclude a player based on their nationality “was a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon which states that player input is based solely on ATP rankings.”
Wimbledon organizers also announced on Tuesday that players will not be required to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to participate in this year’s tournament, which is currently expected to take place under normal circumstances with no measures being taken against the virus.