Wimbledon Fears Isolation Over Its Controversial Ban on Russian and Belarusian Tennis Players

CC0 / Skitterphoto / Tennis court
Tennis court - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.04.2022
In the post-World War II era, no tennis tournament banned players on nationality grounds until Wimbledon shocked the world with its announcement last week. Before the Grass Court Grand Slam's ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors, both the ATP and the WTA had allowed them to participate as neutral athletes.
Wimbledon is feeling the heat over its controversial decision to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from competing in this year's championships and is seeking new allies in order to save itself from sanctions by the ATP and WTA.
Tennis tournaments in the United Kingdom, including Wimbledon, are hoping that a number of countries, especially European counterparts, will join them in barring Russian and Belarusian players from competing in their events.
According to the British newspaper the Daily Mail, the Italian Tennis Association is planning a similar action against athletes of the two countries to stop them from featuring in next month's Rome Open.
Several Scandinavian nations are also contemplating an identical move to ramp up support in favour of Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), the administrative body of the sport in the United Kingdom.
Moreover, with elections now over in France, a more coherent policy is expected to emerge on the matter, with talks at the government level planned between major countries, particularly Britain, France, and Italy, where big tennis tournaments take place every year.
While Wimbledon, the most prestigious Grand Slam in the sport's calendar, is held annually in London, Paris is the host of the French Open and the prestigious joint ATP/WTA competition in Italy is held in Rome.
Despite Wimbledon and the LTA's push for a consistent policy on Russian and Belarusian athletes, the chances of France banning them from taking part in next month's Roland Garros are quite miniscule.
However, Wimbledon and the LTA's efforts may still not be enough to prevent their isolation in tennis, as the ATP and WTA, the men's and women's governing bodies of the sport respectively, are already lining up sanctions on both the British organisations.
As per the ATP and WTA, "discrimination based on nationality" is a violation of their agreement with Grand Slams, including Wimbledon because a player's entry in any tournament is entirely based on his/her ranking. But Wimbledon failed to follow this rule while announcing its ban on Russian and Belarusian players.
As per reports in French daily L'Equipe, members of both the ATP and WTA are set to have discussions on the crisis during next week's Madrid Open.
The ATP and the WTA are thinking about penalising Wimbledon by not rewarding ranking points to players who compete in the 27 June - 10 July competition at SW19 this year.
Without ranking points, Wimbledon will no longer be as lucrative as it is now for the players and it would become an "exhibition event" like some of the tournaments in Australia and Qatar at the start of the year.
If that happens, it would evoke a major embarrassment for Wimbledon's organisers, considering the tournament is viewed as the epitome of tradition, history, and prestige in the tennis world.
In fact, almost every tennis player in the world wants to win Wimbledon at least once in his/her lifetime. But this year's winners might just not get the same kind of respect as those in previous years, because they may not see any change in their rankings on the ATP/WTA charts.
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