ATP and WTA accuse Wimbledon of 'discrimination' in row over Russian and Belarusian players

Tennis tours hit back over controversial plans to sanction players from Russia and Belarus.

The WTA and ATP have both released statements accusing Wimbledon of "discrimination" over their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, with both threatening some kind of response.

Russian and Belarusian players have been allowed to compete on the tennis tours since the invasion of Ukraine under a neutral flag.

Wimbledon have gone a step further, though, forbidding them from entering The Championships at all.

The affected players are also expected to be unable to compete in UK grass swing events such as Queens and Nottingham this summer.

Both the ATP and WTA have reacted strongly, though, with reports they are considering removing ranking points from Wimbledon as a consequence.

"We strongly condemn Russia's reprehensible invasion of Ukraine and stand in solidarity with the millions of innocent people affected by the ongoing war," an ATP statement read.

"Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments based on the ATP Rankings.

"We believe that today's unilateral decision by Wimbledon and the LTA to exclude players from Russia and Belarus from this year's British grass-court swing is unfair and has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.

"Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils.

"It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis.

"In parallel, we will continue our joint humanitarian support for Ukraine under Tennis Plays for Peace.

The women's tour also condemned the decision, saying in a very similar statement: "The WTA strongly condemns the actions that have been taken by Russia and its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. We continue our humanitarian relief efforts to support Ukraine through Tennis Plays for Peace.

Wimbledon aerial view

"We are, however, very disappointed in today's announcement by the AELTC and the LTA to ban individual athletes who are from Russia and Belarus from competing in the upcoming UK grass court events.

"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. 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.

"As the WTA has consistently stated, 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.

"Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.

"The WTA will continue to apply its rules to reject discrimination and ensure that all athletes are able to compete at our Tour events should they qualify to do so, a position that until today's announcement has been shared across professional tennis.

"The WTA will be evaluating its next steps and what actions may be taken regarding these decisions."

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