WTA chief says Russian and Belarusian tennis players shouldn’t face tournament bans

While other sports organizations have banned Russians and Belarusians from competing in international competition, the WTA and ATP have allowed such players to continue competing on tour

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WTA boss Steve Simon believes Russian and Belarusian tennis players should not be banned from playing events because of politics.

Athletes in other sports, such as athletics, have banned individual Russians and Belarusians from appearing in competitions while football’s governing bodies have removed clubs from their competitions. Russian and Belarusian tennis players are not allowed to play under their country’s name or flag and are banned from team competition amid the war.

As well as this, the WTA and ATP tournament in Moscow in October has been suspended while all International Tennis Federation (ITF) events in the countries have been canceled following the invasion of Ukraine. However, Simon – who became WTA Chief Executive in 2015 – believes players hailing from Russia and Belarus should be allowed to continue to play on tour.

“You never know what the future may bring,” Simon told BBC Sport. “But I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.

“So it would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going.”

Simon is hopeful there will be no government ban on Russian and Belarusian players, referring to the sportspeople as ‘innocent victims’. He also suggested the WTA would have to alter their stance should governments go ahead with such measures.

“It will force us to change our position, because obviously we have to follow the rules of government,” he continued. “I feel very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalized by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia and Belarusian two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka headline the players threatened by government sanctions


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“But if that happens, which is again part of the overall strategy of making Russia, and Russian citizens, pay the consequence for the decision their government has made, then it won’t be something that we support.”

On Tuesday, UK sports minister Nigel Hiddleston said that Daniil Medvedev could be banned from Wimbledon unless he gives ‘assurances’ that he does not support Russian president Vladimir Putin. Medvedev lost to Gael Monfils in the third round of Indian Wells and will lose his hard-earned world number one ranking to Novak Djokovic.

The Russian said last week he wants to continue promoting the sport and playing in different countries, adding: “I want to promote my sport, I want to promote what I’m doing in my country for sure, and right now the situation is that that is the only way I can play. “

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