Wimbledon, British government in talks about Russian players

The All England Club confirmed that discussions were ongoing with both U.K. government and tennis governing bodies.

March 16, 2022 09:57 am | Updated 09:57 am IST - LONDON

The Wimbledon logo.

The Wimbledon logo. | Photo Credit: AFP

Wimbledon organizers are having conversations with the British government about whether Russian tennis players — such as No. 1-ranked Daniil Medvedev — should be allowed to compete at the tournament this year if they don’t distance themselves from President Vladimir Putin because of his country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking Tuesday to legislators in London about Wimbledon, British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “Absolutely nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed. Many of us would be willing and able to (allow them to) compete as non-aligned, non-flag-bearing entities. But I think it needs to go beyond that. We need some potential assurances that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to try and get some assurances along those lines.”

Asked by a member of parliament about any back-and-forth with the All England Club, which runs the grass-court Grand Slam tournament, Mr. Huddleston replied: “We are in discussions.”

The All England Club confirmed that discussions were ongoing with both U.K. government and tennis governing bodies.

The seven groups that run the sport around the world have condemned the war; canceled events in Russia and Belarus, which helped with the invasion; kicked those two nations out of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions; and announced on March 1 that players from those countries will be allowed to compete in WTA, ATP and Grand Slam tournaments but not under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus.

Russia is the reigning champion in both the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup, but the International Tennis Federation announced Monday that the country would be replaced in the 2022 Finals of each by the highest-ranked losing semifinalist in 2021. For the Billie Jean King Cup, that is Australia; for the Davis Cup, it is Serbia.

Wimbledon’s deadline for player entries is May 16.

The tournament is scheduled to begin main-draw play on June 27.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, which happened to be the day Medvedev was assured of moving atop the ATP rankings for the first time while competing at the Mexico Open.

“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev said then. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I’ve been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news...I’m all for peace.”

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