WTA

WTA chief Simon: Russia and Belarus tennis stars should not be banned over Ukraine crisis

By Sports Desk March 15, 2022

WTA chairman Steve Simon declared Russian tennis players must not be penalised for their country's "authoritarian leadership" amid concerns they could be frozen out of top tournaments.

The ATP and WTA tours decided Russian and Belarusian players should not be allowed to represent those nations while the crisis in Ukraine continues, with stars such as Daniil Medvedev currently playing under a neutral flag.

The respective tennis tours have also cancelled plans to visit Russia in the near future.

United Kingdom sports minister Nigel Huddleston suggested on Tuesday that US Open champion Medvedev and fellow Russians could be blocked from playing at Wimbledon unless they make a stand against president Vladimir Putin.

But WTA head Simon insisted Russian and Belarusian tennis players should be able to continue featuring on the tour, despite a number of other sports banning such athletes.

"I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take," Simon told BBC Sport.

"So it would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don't know where this is going."

If national governments impose preventive measures on Russian and Belarusian stars, Simon acknowledged there is little he can do to combat such rulings.

"I feel very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalised by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things," Simon said.

"We are hopeful that they will refrain from that because I think there are an awful lot of other issues that go with it. I'm hoping that we continue with the sanctions, we continue doing everything we can to get peace, but again these people are the innocent victims of that, and being isolated as a result of these decisions I don't think it's fair."

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