Billie Jean King has spoken out against the ban on Russian and Belarusian players imposed at Wimbledon this year as a result of the war in Ukraine. 

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced on Wednesday that players from the two nations would not be eligible for the grand slam, with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) stating it would implement the same rule across all its upcoming tournaments. 

Upon announcing its decision, the AELTC cited a responsibility "to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible". 

The blanket ban rules the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka out of contention, and that is something King is against. 

She posted on Twitter: "The decision of the LTA and AELTC regarding Russian and Belarusian players at this year's tournament was a difficult and complex undertaking, and I appreciate the challenges and pressures they are facing. 

"One of the guiding principles of the founding of the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place to compete. 

"I stood by that in 1973 and I stand by that today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament, simply because of their nationality. 

"Tennis is stronger when we stand together, and our continue support of the Tennis Plays for Peace initiative, which provides meaningful financial support and resources to Ukraine, needs to be our focus." 

The ATP and WTA criticised the AELTC's decision, while Martina Navratilova and Novak Djokovic have also voiced their opposition. 

In a statement published on Thursday, the Belarusian Tennis Federation (BTF) said it was seeking legal advice. 

"The Belarusian Tennis Federation categorically condemns the decision taken by the organisers of Wimbledon to suspend Belarusian and Russian tennis players. Such destructive actions in no way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis," read the release. 

"Throughout the history of tennis, armed conflicts have occurred in the world – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia and other countries – but not until now have tournament organisers suspended athletes from the United States, Great Britain and other countries. 

"Illegal decisions of international tennis organizations in relation to our athletes undermines the reputation of these organisations. 

"Consultations of the BTF leadership with international law firms on sports law are ongoing and a strategy is being developed that is aimed at protecting Belarusian tennis players around the world." 

Novak Djokovic "cannot support" Wimbledon's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition this year.

The All-England Club moved to suspend players from the two nations from entering this year's grand slam event, amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The decision is the latest major sporting sanction against the two nations, with Russia barred from World Cup qualification for Qatar 2022 and the Formula One Russian Grand Prix cancelled.

It has been met with considerable pushback, however, with the ATP blasting the decision as "unfair".

Now Djokovic has come out against it too, arguing it is not the fault of the players, who are being punished for actions beyond their control.

"I will always be the first one to condemn the war," said Djokovic, who is currently in action on home soil in the Serbia Open. "As a child of war, I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves.

"Us in Serbia, we know what was happening here in 1999. Ordinary people always suffer – we've had lots of wars in the Balkans.

"That being said, I cannot support the Wimbledon decision. It's not the athletes' fault. When politics interfere with sport, it usually doesn't turn out well."

Eighteen-time grand slam winner Martina Navratilova also pushed back against the move in an interview on LBC Radio.

"The Russian and Belarusian players, some have even expressed, vocalised, their opposition to the war," she added.

"The only option therefore now for them to play would be to leave their country.

"That’s something that I had to do in 1975, because of a totalitarian regime and now we are asking them to do the same, because of politics, because of optics.

"I understand the banning of teams, of course, representing the countries, but on an individual level, I just think it's wrong."

Iga Swiatek continued her impressive form as she crushed qualifier Eva Lys at the Stuttgart Open to clinch a 20th successive win and sail into the quarter-finals.

The world number one was far too good for her opponent, as she claimed her 6-1 6-1 victory in slightly over an hour.

Swiatek, 20, last lost a match in February and has not dropped a set since Indian Wells in March, winning each of the last 26 – that is the best such run on the WTA Tour since Serena Williams won 28 successive sets between the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open.

Having won each of the past three events she has entered, Swiatek is the hot favourite to make it four on the bounce in Stuttgart, where she could meet reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu next in the last eight.

Raducanu, seeded eighth, began her campaign with an emphatic 6-1 6-2 win over Australia's Storm Sanders on Wednesday to set up a second-round clash with Tamara Korpatsch – the winner faces Swiatek.

Sixth seed Karolina Pliskova overcame compatriot Petra Kvitova 6-4 4-6 7-6 (7-5) to progress, while Anett Kontaveit – the fifth favourite – saw off Angelique Kerber 3-6 6-4 6-4.

It was a bad day for some of the higher seeds in the Istanbul Cup, as three of the top five were eliminated.

Favourite Elise Mertens retired from her tournament opener with Rebecca Peterson due to a leg injury, though the Belgian was already 7-5 4-1 down.

Anhelina Kalinina and Jil Teichmann – seeded fourth and fifth, respectively – suffered surprise defeats as well.

Defending champion and second seed Sorana Cirstea appeared in danger of following them out as well, but rallied to defeat Arantxa Rus 3-6 6-1 7-5.

Ajla Tomljanovic also progressed, the Australian enjoying an impressive start against her countrywoman Jaimee Fourlis, winning 6-1 6-3.

Elina Svitolina has called for Russian and Belarusian players to be banned from all international tennis events unless they denounce the invasion in Ukraine.

The All England Club on Wednesday announced that players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka and Andrey Rublev are among the household names that will not be allowed to compete in the grass-court grand slam, "unless circumstances change materially between now and June".

Russian and Belarusian players will also be prevented from entering all other events organised by the Lawn Tennis Association.

Two-time major semi-finalist and former world number three Svitolina believes a global ban should be imposed on players from Russia and Belarus if they do not speak out.

The Ukrainian former world number three posted on Twitter and Instagram: "Dear Tennis Community.

"Ginetta Sagan once said: 'Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor.' This could not be any more true right now.

"On 24th February 2022, Russia, with the support of Belarus, attacked Ukraine. Now there is a war in our country, in our home. All Ukrainians are forced to leave their homes and fight for their lives. For over 50 days now, the Russian forces have been bombing our cities and killing civilians, as well as using the territory of Belarus to bomb Ukraine from the west and the north.

"Millions of people have been left homeless, millions of children now know what explosions, fear and death look like. It is all happening right now in the centre of Europe.

"As athletes we live a life in the public eye and therefore have an enormous responsibility. Some of our posts and opinions on social media reach an audience larger than those of regional television stations. In times of crisis, silence means agreeing with what is happening.

"We noticed that some Russian and Belarusian players at some point vaguely mentioned the war, but never clearly stating that Russia and Belarus started it on the territory of Ukraine. The very silence of those who choose to remain that way right now is unbearable as it leads to the continuation of murder in our homeland.

"We demand that the WTA, ATP and ITF make sure the players who represent Russia and Belarus answer the following questions:

"1. Do you support Russia's and Belarus invasion in Ukraine's territory and as a result of that the war started by those countries?

"2. Do you support Russia's and Belarus military activities in Ukraine?

"3. Do you support [Russian president Vladimir] Putin's and [Belarus president Alexander] Lukashenko's regime?

"If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in any international event, as Wimbledon already [has] done. There come a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now."

Daniil Medvedev headlines the list of Russian and Belarusian players who will be banned from competing at Wimbledon this year.

In the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which was facilitated by Belarus, the four grand slams and the ATP and WTA Tours initially confirmed Russian and Belarusian players would be able to continue playing, albeit under neutral flags.

However, the All England Club has now decided athletes from the two nations will be unable to feature at the season's third grand slam.

That means reigning US Open champion Medvedev, ranked second in the world by the ATP behind Novak Djokovic, will not be involved.

With Medvedev a doubt for the French Open having undergone hernia surgery, he could miss two of this year's majors. He has never had much success at Wimbledon, with his best run ending in the fourth round in 2021.

WTA world number four Aryna Sabalenka, who hails from Belarus, is another big name to miss out, along with Russian ATP world number eight Andrey Rublev, who has won two titles so far in 2022.

Russian women's number one Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, compatriot and 2018 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Daria Kasatkina and Belarusian two-time All England Club semi-finalist Victoria Azarenka will all also be absent.

"We share in the universal condemnation of Russia's illegal actions and have carefully considered the situation in the context of our duties to the players, to our community and to the broader UK public as a British sporting institution," a statement on the official Wimbledon website read.

"We have also taken into account guidance set out by the UK Government specifically in relation to sporting bodies and events.

"In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships. It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022."

Chairman of the All England Club, Ian Hewitt, said: "We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime.

"We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance but, given the high profile environment of The Championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis at The Championships."

Wimbledon's statement confirmed that the ban would be "reconsidered" should circumstances change by June.

The move comes a month after UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston warned Medvedev and other Russian athletes they might be banned from Wimbledon unless they denounced president Vladimir Putin.

Medvedev and Rublev both called for peace in the immediate aftermath of Russia's attack on Ukraine.

Second seed Sorana Cirstea breezed through the first round of the Istanbul Cup on Tuesday as US Open champion Emma Raducanu prepares for her bow in the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

The Romanian made short work of lucky loser Kamilla Rakhimova in a 6-4 6-1 straight sets victory in Turkey to launch her defence of the title she won against Elise Mertens last year.

The Belgian – top seed once again in Istanbul – gets her campaign underway against Sweden's Rebecca Peterson on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, there were wins for seeds Veronika Kudermetova and Jil Teichmann, though Tereza Martincova is out after a surprise 6-4 7-5 loss to qualifier Anna Bondar.

World number 12 Raducanu meanwhile is also poised to get her latest tilt for silverware underway in Stuttgart in midweek, with the eighth seed facing qualifier Storm Sanders.

The title is up for grabs on the WTA Tour following Ash Barty's retirement, with her world number one successor Iga Swiatek a potential quarter-finalist for the Briton if she gets that far.

There will be no Coco Gauff in the mix however after the American made a first round exit in straight sets, losing to Daria Kasatkina 6-4 6-2.

Seventh seed Ons Jabeur, meanwhile, fought back to beat Marketa Vondrousova 4-6 6-2 6-3, while qualifier Eva Lys overcame Viktorija Golubic 5-7 7-5 7-5 to set up a second round clash with Swiatek.

Emma Raducanu has revealed the responsibility for her new-found affinity for Tottenham lies predominantly with her Spurs-obsessed support team.

Social media has been abuzz on Monday with photos and videos of the 19-year-old US Open champion training in a Tottenham jersey ahead of the Stuttgart Open.

The shirt even had her name and the number 10 emblazoned across the back, suggesting a particularly strong connection with the north London club. But it is not quite as it seems.

Raducanu, who was born in Toronto but raised in south-east London, said she has been heavily influenced by those close to her – although the presence of star duo Harry Kane and Son Heung-min was also a consideration.

"My whole team basically are big Spurs fans and I feel like they're egging me on," Raducanu told reporters.

"They're desperately trying to get me behind them! I don't necessarily follow football much, but I feel like now, because of them, I'm feeling some sort of connection.

"I loved following the Euros last year and watching Harry Kane, who's obviously the England captain, and Son, I'm a big fan of him as well. So yeah, I like to dabble."

Raducanu is seeded eighth for her first-ever tournament on clay this week and will begin her campaign against Storm Sanders on Wednesday.

While Raducanu's immediate aim is undoubtedly building momentum, she sees this tournament as a chance to make a statement on a surface she believes will be her strongest in the long term.

"It's going to be an exciting clay season," she added. "I'm not sure how it is going to go. I keep telling everyone around me that one day clay is going to be my surface and I still believe that.

"I think game-wise on clay, especially when you're playing outside, you definitely need to be a lot more patient and build the point.

"You can't just hit a big shot, whereas on a hard court, you might be able to get a weak shot straight away. You really need to build the point a lot more, which takes a lot more energy and physical demand.

"You just have to be more crafty, I think, and I think it's a good lesson, especially for someone younger like me, to develop more skills. 

"I'm looking forward to spending more time on the clay as the years go by because I do like sliding and moving on it, and it's just about again being able to repeat over and over."

There were two first-round matches played in Stuttgart on Monday, with Liudmila Samsonova claiming a double bagel when beating Chloe Paquet 6-0 6-0, while Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Shuai Zhang 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (8-6).

Kim Clijsters has called time on her latest tennis comeback, announcing her retirement from playing in official tournaments.

The Belgian surprisingly stepped away from the sport in 2007, before returning in 2009 to win back-to-back US Open titles in 2009 and 2010 before being crowned the 2011 Australian Open champion.

Clijsters retired again after the 2012 US Open, where she was beaten in the second round, before returning in February 2020 at the age of 36.

The former world number one's first match in over seven years came at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, losing in straight sets to Garbine Muguruza, while her last official match was in October, when she was defeated by Katerina Siniakova in the first round at Indian Wells.

Clijsters took to Instagram on Tuesday to announce her decision, posting: "I want to share with you that I have decided to no longer play official tournaments. I can't wait to see what new adventures will cross my path. Thank you to everyone who has supported me over the past two years!"

Mother of three Clijsters revealed stepping away from tennis again had "been on my mind for a while."

"I still love to hit the ball," she told the WTA website. "With my schedule, three, four days was enough to keep my rhythm under control but definitely not good enough if I decided to play another tournament. Say, if I picked Australia, it's three, four weeks. That's just not possible at this stage in our family life.

"Life just sort of takes over, right?"

Clijsters won three US Open singles titles in all, as well as her Australian Open crown, and in 2003 won both the French Open and Wimbledon doubles titles with Ai Sugiyama.

She became world number one on four separate occasions, winning 41 overall titles and boasting a career match record of 523-131 (80.0 per cent).

Belinda Bencic continued her strong run of form in the United States as she defeated world number 10 Ons Jabeur 6-1 5-7 6-4 to win the Charleston Open.

Sunday's success made it 10 victories from her past 11 matches for Bencic, with the lone defeat coming in a semi-final against Naomi Osaka at the Miami Open.

The Swiss Olympic gold medallist flew out of the gates in the opening set, winning 80 per cent of her points on serve (16 of 20) and breaking Jabeur twice.

It was a far more competitive second set as Jabeur's return game improved, the Tunisian also saving six of eight break points to force a decider.

Bencic prevailed in a rollercoaster of a third set, where Jabeur converted two breaks of serve, but the eventual champion managed three, finding a response every time she was challenged.

Jabeur becomes the second top-10 scalp claimed by Bencic this tournament after also defeating world number three Paula Badosa in three sets in the quarter-finals.

Germany's Tatjana Maria sank the hopes of Brazil's Laura Pigossi by carrying off the Copa Colsanitas title in Bogota, landing a 6-3 4-6 6-2 victory in Sunday's final.

Maria, who won her only previous WTA singles title in Mallorca in 2018, had the serving advantage in a contest between two qualifiers, hitting six aces to Pigossi's zero.

In the two sets that she won, Maria won 80 per cent of her successful first serves (28 of 35), not allowing Pigossi a look at a break point in the opener and saving two opportunities in the third.

Maria won seven matches in nine days while at the event in Colombia, with the 34-year-old dropping only two sets in the process.

The win will see a significant jump in Maria's world ranking, which is currently number 237 after taking time off to have a child.

Belinda Bencic wondered if she would ever be able to compete for titles on clay but will do exactly that on Sunday.

The Swiss reached her first ever WTA Tour final on the red dirt of the Charleston Open, beating semi-final opponent Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-4 6-3.

Although she has four WTA titles to her name, this was only Bencic's third last-four appearance on clay – losing the prior two, including a 2014 Charleston challenge as a 17-year-old.

But she finally has glory in her sights, and the omens are good for the final, facing Ons Jabeur having won their only prior meeting in 2021 at the Madrid Open, another clay-court event.

"I'm happy this moment came," Bencic said. "I didn't think it would, but I'm super happy with how I played today. I thought it was a great match in tough conditions."

Bencic needed only 78 minutes to complete the job, but Jabeur found life tougher, forced to rally from a set down to Amanda Anisimova.

The 20-year-old American had herself recovered to eliminate top seed Aryna Sabalenka earlier in the tournament but was now on the wrong side of such a comeback.

Jabeur, who lost in the final of the WTA 250 Charleston Open II last year, prevailed 2-6 6-1 6-4.

Meanwhile, at the Copa Colsanitas, there will be no repeat win for Camila Osorio after the defending champion and top seed lost to Laura Pigossi in straight sets in the semis.

Tatjana Maria is now Pigossi's opponent in the title match.

Belinda Bencic has beaten world number three Paula Badosa 2-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 to move on to the semi-finals of the Charleston Open.

Bencic, the 10th seed, appeared overmatched early on as she won less than half (12-25) of her service points in the opening set, getting her serve broken twice.

But as Bencic found her rhythm with her serve – winning 77 per cent of her first-serve points in the second set (24-31) – she wrestled the momentum away from Badosa, dominating the tie-break before breaking in the opening game of the third frame.

Bencic will face Ekaterina Alexandrova in the semi-final after the Russian dominated Magda Linette 6-0 6-2.

For the match, Alexandrova won 62 per cent of her points on serve (28-45) and 62 per cent of her points on return (26-42).

Fourth seed Ons Jabeur needed just 64 minutes to get the job done 6-3 6-2 against Anhelina Kalinina, winning 81 per cent of her successful first serves (29-36).

Jabeur will play 15th seed Amanda Anisimova in the semi-final after the American cruised past compatriot Coco Vandeweghe 6-1 6-2.

It was not a perfect performance from Anisimova, but she saved all five break points that she faced to never allow her opponent to get close.

Meanwhile, in Bogota at the Copa Colsanitas, top seed Camila Osorio is through to the semi-final after defeating Elina Avanesyan 6-1 6-4, where she will meet Laura Pigossi.

Karolina Pliskova believes Ash Barty could return to tennis following her surprise retirement in March, but the Czech acknowledged she could not relate to the decision as she "likes the game too much".

Barty became just the second player to call quits on their playing career when ranked as world number one, after Justine Henin, with a shock announcement last month.

The 25-year-old cited a lack of "physical drive and emotional want" to compete despite claiming her second grand slam title at the Australian Open just two months before.

However, just as Henin did after retiring, former world number one Pliskova has a feeling that Barty, who defeated her in the 2021 Wimbledon final, may also return to the court in future.

"I was shocked because I'm not really on Twitter because I don't want to get too much information for myself," Pliskova told the WTA on Barty's retirement.

"But somebody messaged me and said, 'Oh, did you see the news?' It was 11:00 in the evening in Miami. I was like, 'No, no, did somebody cry again or something?' They said, 'No, no, Ashleigh, she stopped.' I'm like, 'No way, that's not possible. Tell me the reason.' 

"I understand everybody's different. For me, it's not understandable at all because I just like the game so much. But I understand somebody maybe suffers, somebody doesn't like to travel.

"She basically won everything that she wanted to win, I suppose maybe she had no motivation. If you hate this tennis life and it's not what you always wanted to do, I think it's good to stop. 

"But I was surprised and shocked. I thought she was a really good number one for our sport and she was there for a while. Of course now, Iga [Swiatek] is a really good player, but I just thought Ashleigh was a good person and she had good charisma. I'm going to miss her. 

"But you never know. I think maybe she's going to come back. And then she's just going to be 27."

Meanwhile, Pliskova is focusing on her comeback as she continues to recover from a freak gym accident that resulted in a broken arm, which delayed the start of her new campaign by two months.

The 30-year-old, who has reached two major finals, made an encouraging return as she defeated Ukraine's Katarina Zavatska at Charleston Open but fell to Ekaterina Alexandrova on Friday.

"It was tough because people who follow tennis or me, they know I don't really have injuries," she added. "Even if I feel something, I still play. I never skip anything, not even practice or a tournament.

"The only break I had was this Covid break and I don't think that helped me. This injury was a bit more serious because I could not use my arm. I had a cast for a month or two. So it was quite a difficult time.

"I think things are going quite well. I just try to take the positives out of it, that I'm able to play after a couple months. It's been too long for me because with the offseason together, I missed four or five months.

"I know I'm not the player which can have five months at home and then I come in and win a tournament. I need some time to go through the feelings and the matches. I know it's going to take time, but just happy to be back."

World number five and the tournament's top seed, Aryna Sabalenka, was upset by American Amanda Anisimova 3-6 6-4 6-3 in the third round at the Charleston Open.

Sabalenka's serve was the key to her early success, connecting on 73 per cent of her first serves, and winning 15 of the 19 points in that situation (79 per cent).

When Sabalenka's first serve percentage fell to 48 in the second set, Anisimova found her footing, breaking twice in the frame, before pouncing on the Belarusian's lacklustre second serve in the deciding set, winning seven of nine opportunities to earn the break and the win.

Sixth seed Jessica Pegula was also bounced in surprising fashion, losing 6-4 3-6 6-4 to unseeded compatriot Coco Vandeweghe.

In a razor-close contest, it came down to who took their chances, as Vandeweghe saved seven of the 10 break points she faced, while Pegula could only save one of five.

World number 10 Ons Jabeur had no problem navigating the challenge of Emma Navarro, winning 6-3 6-2 as she broke her opponent's serve on six occasions.

Canadian seventh seed Leylah Hernandez also fell victim to an unseeded upset, going down 3-6 6-3 6-4 against Poland's Magda Linette.

In a meeting between two top-10 seeds, Belinda Bencic got the better of Madison Keys to edge it 6-4 6-4.

Second seed Paula Badosa had to come from a set down to eventually get the better of Claire Liu 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-1.

In the late session, French 12th seed Alize Cornet went down in a close tussle against Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina 7-6 (7-5) 7-5, while Jabeur won her second match of the day, beating Irina Begu 6-3 6-2.

Meanwhile, in Bogota at the Copa Colsanitas, top seed Camila Osorio dispatched Turkish opponent Ipek Oz 6-3 7-6 (7-4) to move on to the quarter-final where she will meet Elina Avanesyan.

Serena Williams appeared to shut down premature talk of calling time on her career by declaring that she hopes to return from injury in time for Wimbledon.

The 40-year-old has not played competitively since losing to Aliaksandra Sasnovich in the first round of last year's tournament at SW19 and is now ranked at 246 in the world.

Williams' future in the sport was called into question on Thursday when her long-time coach Patrick Mouratoglou announced he will now work with Simona Halep.

However, the 23-time major winner – who has been coached by Mouratoglou since 2012 – has moved to confirm her intention to return to top-level tennis in the coming months.

Speaking alongside Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers at an event in Miami, Williams said: "We've been talking about my comeback and he's been hyping me up.

"He's getting me ready for Wimbledon. Can't wait!"

Williams is one major title shy of matching Margaret Court's long-standing record of 24, having been beaten in four finals since her most recent triumph at the 2017 Australian Open.

She missed last year's US Open on home soil, as well as the 2022 Australian Open in January.

Rodgers was surprised at Williams' Wimbledon announcement and asked: "What about the US Open?", to which the ex-world number one replied: "Wimbledon is first".

The grass-court grand slam gets under way on June 27.

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