The ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players from Wimbledon first emerged in March as a vague and embarrassing riff from the UK Sports Minister; By April, it had become the actual policy adopted by the Lawn Tennis Association, the regulatory body for tennis in Britain. The ban was apparently created without any sign-off from the ATP and WTA, which manages the men’s and women’s tours and rolls the ranking points that determine the packing order among the best players in the world. On Friday, both tours announced that they would snatch these ranking points from Wimbledon, a sharp rebuke of the players’ ban as much as they could collect.
Wimbledon will still be played, for money and prestige, and will likely feature players and spectators alike, but both tours have decided that the ban violates the notion of a merit-based, non-discriminatory global competition. It’s a spicy thing. Pro Tennis is a confusing web of bureaucracies spread across several continents, and while tensions between these bureaucracies continue to burn in the background, you will seldom see it as directly verbal as the ATP and WTA statements, which are supposed to punish the LTA. Says. For their unilateral decision and for threatening the right to conduct future tournaments in Britain.
“The position we are taking is to protect the equal opportunities that WTA players should compete as individuals,” WTA CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement. “If we do not take this position, we will abandon our basic policy and allow the WTA to be an example in supporting discrimination on the basis of nationality in other events and in other parts of the world.” ATP has taken care to justify this decision:
There was no other solution? Why don’t you just give ranking protection to the dropped players?
As the governing body of the sport, our responsibility is to maintain the integrity of our tour and the ranking system that supports it. The removal of ranking points at Wimbledon is a decision based entirely on maintaining a level playing field for our players throughout the season. This was not done adequately to provide ranking protection to Russian and Belarusian players.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus were banned from competing on international teams, and players representing the two countries had to compete without national flags, colors, symbols, or music. The British government issued unofficial guidelines to sports organizations, urging them to take a stronger position, such as the Ukraine invasion and the need for a signed declaration of non-support for responsible regimes. The choice of the LTA to ban these players from the competition altogether marked a serious increase. It has disappointed players and fans alike, but it turns out, the strongest steward of the game.