The Championships at Wimbledon, the most prestigious tennis event on the calendar, announced Wednesday that it’s barring Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament due to the countries’ support for the war in Ukraine.
Wimbledon officials said the ban is directly related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and support for the ongoing war from the Belarusian government.
The ban will keep several top Russian and Belarusian players from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in June — including world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who advanced to the quarterfinals in London last year and won the U.S. Open last September.
Also affected by the ban are Belarus women’s player Victoria Azarenka, who was the women’s world No. 1 a decade ago, and Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who’s currently No. 8 in the men’s rankings.
Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, who reached the Wimbledon semifinals last year and is ranked No. 4 in the world, and Russia’s Anastasia Pavluychenkova are also being denied entry.
“We share in the universal condemnation of Russia’s illegal actions and have carefully considered the situation in the context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader U.K. public as a British sporting institution,” the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club said in a statement Wednesday.
“Given the profile of the Championships … it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.
“It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to the Championships 2022.”
Wimbledon is the first major tennis tournament to bar athletes over the Russian war in Ukraine, which will begin its ninth week on Thursday. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting so far.
Russian athletes on the ATP and WTA tours are required to compete as country-neutral athletes.
Wimbledon acknowledged that the ban is not a condemnation of Russian or Belarusian players, but rather an economic punishment for both governments. In February, Rublev stirred up controversy at a tournament in Dubai when he wrote on the lens of a television camera, “No War Please.”
“We recognize that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” AELTC Chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.
The first major tournament, the Australian Open, occurred in January before the war began and no athletes have yet been banned from the French Open, the second major, in May. World No. 1 men’s player Novak Djokovic was barred from the Australian Open, however, due to his refusal to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Russian players have, however, been barred in other tennis events — including the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. Russia won both in 2021.
Wimbledon will run from June 27 through July 10. The final Grand Slam event will be August’s U.S. Open, which has not yet announced any player restrictions.