The Russian players were to be expelled from Wimbledon, which the Kremlin calls “unacceptable”.
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a ban on Russian players from participating in this year’s Wimbledon tennis tournament as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was “unacceptable”.
Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to a question about the alleged ban of Russian and Belarusian players from participating in the tournament, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.
“Making athletes victims of some kind of political prejudice, intrigue and hostilities towards our country is unacceptable. One cannot help but regret it,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters.
“We can’t confirm or deny at this time, but we plan to announce this afternoon,” the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which organizes and hosts the popular Grand Slam event, told CNN.
This information was confirmed to the newspaper by a “high-ranking international tennis official” who spoke anonymously. The official was not authorized to speak on behalf of the AELTC, according to The New York Times.
“Given that Russia is, after all, a very strong country in terms of tennis, our tennis players are at the top of the world rankings and the competition itself will be affected by their withdrawal,” Peskov said.
“I hope the boys will do their best not to lose their level and not lose the world tennis class,” he added.
The AELTC told CNN earlier this month that it “continues to have discussions with the UK government, the LTA (the Tennis Association) and international tennis governing bodies” regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players.
Organizers added that they intend to make a decision before the mid-May registration deadline.
The ban on Russian players will prevent a number of high-profile players from competing on the popular Grand Slam grass courts. Four Russian men, including world number two and US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, are currently in the top 30 of the ATP rankings.
Russia has five women in the top 40 WTA rankings.
Currently ranked fourth in the world, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon last year, while her compatriot Victoria Azarenka, the former world number one, is currently 18th.
If confirmed, it would be the first time that Russian and Belarusian players have been banned from competing in an elite tennis event.
Russia and Belarus were banned by tennis governing bodies from participating in international team competitions after the invasion. Single players can compete in the ATP and WTA rounds, but not under their country’s name or flag.
Wimbledon, the third major tournament of the year, will begin on June 27.
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