WTA chief says Russian and Belarusian tennis players shouldn’t be banned from tournaments because of politics


Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief Steve Simon says players shouldn’t be banned from tournaments because of politics.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian tennis players are not allowed to play under their country’s name or flag and cannot participate in team competitions.

The combined WTA and ATP event in Moscow in October has been suspended while all International Tennis Federation (ITF) tournaments in Russia and Belarus have been cancelled.

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Athletes in other sports, such as track and field, have banned Russians and Belarusians from participating in competitions.

Simon believes players from Russia and Belarus should be allowed to continue playing on the tennis 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 in our tour because of any political positions their leaders might take.

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

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Simon says their stance should change if governments ban Russian or Belarusian players from entering a country.

“It will force us to change our position, because obviously we have to follow the rules of the government,” he continued.

“I think very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones who are penalized by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible and reprehensible things.

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

“We hope they refrain from that because I think there are so many other issues that go with it.

“I don’t think you can just go after the athletes. What are you going to do with the [Russian] refugees arriving? Are you going to treat refugees differently from athletes?

“I hope we continue the sanctions, we continue to do everything we can to get peace, but again, these people are the innocent victims of it, and being isolated as a result of these decisions, I don’t think not that it’s fair.”

British Sports Minister Nigel Hiddleston said on Tuesday that Daniil Medvedev could be banned from Wimbledon unless he gives “assurances” that he does not support Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We are discussing this with various sports and how to respond to it,” he told the Department for Culture, Media and Sport committee. Absolutely no one flying the flag of Russia should be allowed or allowed.

“But I think we need to go beyond that, I think we need to have assurances that they are not Vladimir Putin supporters and we are thinking about what requirements we might need to get assurances in that Sens.

“In short, would I be comfortable with a Russian athlete flying the Russian flag? Nope.”

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Medvedev, who crashed out in Indian Wells this week after losing to Gael Monfils in the third round in straight sets and who will lose his world No.1 ranking, said last week he hoped to continue promoting the sport.

He said: “It’s always difficult to talk about this topic because I want to play tennis – play in different countries.

“I want to promote my sport, I want to promote what I do in my country for sure, and right now the situation is that it’s the only way for me to play.”

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