Leading Russian and Belarusian tennis players barred from Wimbledon

By: AFP
Published: 09:43 PM, 20 Apr, 2022
Leading Russian and Belarusian tennis players barred from Wimbledon
Caption: Leading Russian and Belarusian tennis players barred from Wimbledon
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Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine will see several stars miss the third Grand Slam tournament of the season.

Here, AFP Sport highlights some of those set to be affected (player, world ranking, best performance at Wimbledon):

Men

Russia

Daniil Medvedev (2, 4th rd 2021)

-- The 26-year-old may be left with just defending his US Open title in terms of Grand Slams remaining this year. This year's Australian Open finalist is racing to be fit for the French Open having undergone a hernia operation and while he has yet to show a great aptitude for grass, he has shown improvement.

The Monte Carlo resident's stance over the war in Ukraine has been couched in general terms: "My message is always the same -– I want peace in all of the world," Medvedev said in March.  

Andrey Rublev (8, 4th rd 2021)

-- The crowd pleasing 24-year-old has had a good season so far, winning in Marseille and Dubai and losing to eventual champion Taylor Fritz in the Indian Wells semi-finals.

He has reached the quarter-finals of all the other Grand Slams apart from Wimbledon, although he produced his best performance there last year in reaching the last 16.

Rublev attracted plaudits for scrawling "No war please" on a TV camera following his Dubai semi-final, a day after the February 24 invasion.

In March at Indian Wells he said it was "terrible what's happening" and he "felt bad for everyone".

He continued: "I think that's why sport have to be example, we have to be united, we need to be outside politic, to show an example at least inside of sport."

Karen Khachanov (26, Quarter-finals 2021)

-- The only one of the three Russians who reached the fourth round at Wimbledon last year to make the quarter-finals. The 25-year-old came close to making the semi-finals, going to five sets with Canada's Denis Shapovalov.

The Dubai-resident took to Instagram shortly after the invasion, posting "No War" with Russian and Ukrainian flags and a praying icon.

Women

Belarus

Aryna Sabalenka (4, Semi-finals 2021)

-- Having finally looked at ease last year on grass as her big serve powered her into the last four, the 23-year-old will be unable to take advantage of champion Ashleigh Barty's retirement.

She has not spoken out against the war but chosen, like others, a more generalised viewpoint.

"I can wear (the ribbon in support of Ukraine)," Sabalenka said at Indian Wells.

"I don't feel bad wearing it. I feel people need our support. I just hope people understand that we are all really worried.

"I think even the word 'Sad' is not even the right word. We all care about them and we all hope for the best and for peace."

Victoria Azarenka (18, Semi-finals 2011, 2012)

-- One of the most experienced players on the women's circuit at 32, the former world number one is still inside the top 20.

Azarenka -- who is based in the United States -- was relatively forthright in her view of the hostilities.

"I am devastated by the actions that have taken place over the last several days against and in Ukraine," she wrote on Twitter in early March.

"It is heartbreaking to see how many innocent people have been affected and continue to be affected by such violence.

"I have always seen and experienced Ukrainian and Belarusian people friendly and supportive of each other. It's hard to witness the violent separation currently taking place."

Russia

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (15, Quarter-finals 2015)

-- The 30-year-old has been on the sidelines with a knee injury and is due back towards the end of this month.

She was perhaps the most outspoken of the Russian tennis players at the outset of the conflict.

"I am not afraid to clearly state my position," she tweeted on March 1.

"Personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence. This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children.

"I am not a politician, not a public figure, I have no experience in this. I can only publicly disagree with these decisions taken and openly talk about it. Stop the violence, stop the war."

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.