Wimbledon allows Russian, Belarusian tennis players back in
Tournament chief says decision was ‘incredibly difficult.’
Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to compete at this year’s edition of the Wimbledon tennis tournament as “neutral athletes,” the tournament’s organizers said in a statement Friday.
In April 2022, Wimbledon issued a ban on players from both countries over Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — during which some Russian troops entered Ukraine from Belarus, a close Moscow ally.
“Our current intention is to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players subject to them competing as ‘neutral’ athletes and complying with appropriate conditions,” the organizers said in a statement.
This includes prohibiting “expressions of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in various forms” as well as “entry by players receiving funding from the Russian and/or Belarusian states,” including from state-owned companies, the statement read.
Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club which organizes the tournament, called the decision “incredibly difficult” and said the organizers “continue[d] to condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion.”
“It is our view that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for The Championships for this year,” Hewitt said. The tournament takes place in London in July.
One of tennis’ four Grand Slams — the most important tournaments in professional tennis — Wimbledon’s ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes sparked controversy last year, causing international tennis federations ATP and WTA to strip ranking points from last year’s edition.
A Belarusian player, Aryna Sabalenka, won 2023’s first Grand Slam at the Australian Open.
The participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports competition has been a controversial topic since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.
Several countries, led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics — an effort that was on Thursday slammed as “deplorable” by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.