Wimbledon organizers confirmed a ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players in a statement on Wednesday, saying: “It is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of government, industry, sports and creative institutions to to limit Russia’s global influence by the strongest means possible.”
Wimbledon, the third grand slam of the year, kicks off on June 27.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that the ban on Russian players is “unacceptable”.
Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to a question about the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament, first reported by DailyExpertNews on Wednesday.
“Making athletes the victims of any kind of political prejudice, intrigue, hostile actions towards our country is unacceptable. You can only regret this,” Peskov told reporters during a conference call.
“Since Russia is a very strong tennis country after all, our tennis players are at the top of the world rankings, the competition itself will suffer from their removal,” Peskov said. “…I would like the boys to do everything they can not to lose form and not lose their world tennis class.”
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which organizes and hosts the event, told DailyExpertNews earlier this month that it “continued discussions with the UK government, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) and tennis international governing bodies” regarding to the participation of Russian and Belarusian players.
The organizers added that they planned to make a decision before the entry deadline in mid-May.
The ban prevents several high-ranking players from taking part in the iconic grand slam on the lawn. Four Russian men, including world number two and reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, are currently in the top 30 of the ATP Tour.
Russia has five women in the top 40 of the WTA Tour rankings.
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka currently ranks fourth in the world and was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year, while compatriot Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one, is currently 18th.
The decision of the AELTC marks the first time that Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to participate in an elite tennis event.
Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions after the invasion. Individual players may participate in the ATP and WTA Tours, but not under their country’s name or flag.