Wimbledon BAN Russian and Belarusian players from competing this year

BREAKING NEWS: Wimbledon BAN Russian and Belarusian players from the Championships over the invasion of Ukraine… with men’s world No 2 Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka among FIVE of the sport’s top 40 stars shut out

  • Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be banned from playing at Wimbledon
  • The nations have been ostracised from the sporting world since war broke out 
  • It means three of the women’s top 20 and two of the men’s top 10 are all banned
  • UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston said players have to be ‘genuinely neutral’ 

Wimbledon looks set to confirm the banning of all players from Russia and Belarus from this summer’s Championships in light of the ongoing atrocities in Ukraine.

The All England Club’s main committee appear to have opted for a prompt decision as the war enters a new phase, with hopes of peace talks receding.

The move has been made ahead of the tournament’s scheduled annual press conference next week, where the subject was bound to arise. The WTA and ATP Tours have been informed that a fair smattering of its top players will be barred from SW19.

Sources high up in the game have confirmed to Sportsmail that the measures are imminent, with men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev the highest profile player to be affected.

According to a report in the New York Times both Russian and Belarus will be covered by the suspension, which means that women’s world number four Aryna Sabalenka is also out.

While it was always likely that, short of peace breaking out, there would be a ban, Wimbledon has acted a long way in advance of its start date of June 27 and perhaps earlier than expected.

Mindful of the shambles that unfolded immediately before this year’s Australian Open – which tried to finesse rules over unvaccinated players being allowed in such as Novak Djokovic – a clean break has been opted for.

Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be banned from competing at Wimbledon this year

Russian duo Daniil Medvedev (left) and Andrey Rublev (right) are both unable to compete

Three of the women’s world top 20 will also be banned – including Aryna Sabalenka (pictured)

Suggestions that players from the two countries might be made to publicly denounce the invasion always looked unworkable.

According to one senior source the decision has been led more by the All England Club rather than purely as a result of direct UK government intervention.

It is believed that players associations were made aware of their thinking only late on Tuesday.

Whether this will apply to other grass court events in Britain is not yet clear, but Wimbledon is independent of the ATP and WTA Tours. Fellow Grand Slam the French Open at present is not following suit, at least for now, and the players from the two affected countries are on their entry lists.

On March 1 the alphabet soup of governing bodies issued a joint declaration banning Russian and Belarusian teams from competition, but allowing individuals to carry on playing without a flag besides their name.

The move may not go down well with the WTA in particular. The female tour’s supremo Steve Simon has already stated publicly that he is against any ban on individuals. 

Wimbledon will have been mindful of the genuine possibility that, come its finals weekend, there would be pictures beamed around the world of someone from Russia or Belarus holding a trophy aloft on the Centre Court – at what is the centenary of the famous arena. 

There are fears a Russian victory would boost Vladimir Putin’s regime after invasion of Ukraine

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – who played in the 2021 French Open final – is among the WTA tour’s top 50 ranked players

There are two Belarusian women players in the top 20 including last year’s Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabalenka (current world number 4), and one Russian, Anastasia Pavluychenkova. Last year at Wimbledon the Russian pair of Veronika Kudermetova and Elina Vesnina were runners-up in the women’s doubles.

There are four Russian men in the top 30 and two in the top ten, the currently injured Medvedev (2) and Andrey Rublev (8). Last year another one, Karen Khachanov, reached the singles quarter finals and was only narrowly beaten in 5 sets.

While the stand is principled it is also likely to invite arguments about consistency, such as whether political stands should extend to China, with which the tournament has established closer links in recent years.

There will be plenty of sympathy within the game for the individual players within the game from Russia and Belarus. Many have been fearful of speaking out with relatives back home but as far back as February Rublev scrawled the message ‘No war please’ on a camera lens after a victory in Dubai.

However, the Ukraine contingent are likely to be pleased, with tensions known to have been rising within the locker room over the past two months. Some have accused their Russian peers of insensitivity towards them.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces managed to repel numerous attempted advances as Russian shelling and strikes increased on the Donbas line of control on Tuesday, a British military update said.

On one of the most dramatic days of the war, Moscow hit more than 1,200 targets as it launched its long-feared offensive in eastern Ukraine. 

Russia issued a new ultimatum for Ukrainian troops and foreign fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol to lay down their arms on Tuesday

A damaged Russian tank is seen near a road in Zalisia village not far from Kyiv on Tuesday

Pictured: A damaged kindergarten in Zalisia village not far from Kyiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday

In what is likely to be the definitive battle for Ukraine, Russia tried to break through the 300-mile defensive front line of Kyiv’s forces.

Briefing Cabinet ministers in the morning, Boris Johnson described Ukraine’s predicament as ‘perilous’, with Vladimir Putin seemingly determined to claim victory ‘regardless of the human cost’.

Ministers were briefed by a senior national security official who said the new phase of the war, focusing on the Donbas region, was likely to be ‘an attritional conflict’ which could last ‘several months’.

Russia’s aerial bombardment, which began in the early hours and continued throughout the day, focused on targets around Luhansk and Donetsk, the country’s industrial area producing coal and steel.

Moscow’s defence ministry said ‘high-precision air-based missiles’ had struck 13 Ukrainian positions in the Donbas, including the city of Slavyansk, where 60 Ukrainian military targets were apparently hit.

After a long and heavy bombardment, Putin’s forces then captured the city of Kreminna, leaving – according to local officials – at least 200 civilians dead.  

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