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WTA condemns Russian ban in face of Ukrainian player’s demands

(Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Wimbledon’s decision to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition has been met with mixed reactions, with the WTA saying in a statement Wednesday that it is “very disappointed” in the ban.

“A fundamental principal of the WTA is that individual athletes may participate in professional tennis events based on merit and without any form of discrimination,” the statement said. “That principle is expressly set forth in our rules and has been agreed to by both AELTC and LTA. Prohibitions against discrimination are also clearly expressed in their own rules and the Grand Slam rules.

“Individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.”

Wimbledon, which is scheduled to begin in late June, did say that the decision to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes could be reevaluated if the situation in Ukraine were to change. The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began.

Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina Monfils offered a contrasting take on her sport’s response to the war in Ukraine. She called on the WTA, ATP and ITF to ask Russian and Belarusian athletes for their stance on the invasion and “exclude and ban” the athletes from competition “if applicable.”

“In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening,” she wrote. “The very silence of those who choose to remain that way right now is unbearable as it leads to the continuation of murder in our homeland.”