'Don't judge them': Tennis champ's message for punished players

Belarus star Aryna Sabalemnka (pictured left) sitting down during a match hand Russia World No.1 Daniil Medvedev (pictured right) waving to the fans.
Belarus star Aryna Sabalemnka (pictured left) and Russian star Daniil Medvedev (pictured right) are both playing under neutral flags due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. (Getty Images)

Romanian tennis star Simona Halep has jump to the support of the Russian players who are now playing under a neutral flag during Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

The sporting world has followed world leaders in taking steps to punish Russia after President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine.

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The International Olympic Committee's (IOC) executive board recommended that sports federations and event organisers "not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions." (Belarus has supported the Russian invasion.)

Following the call, FIFA banned all Russian national teams and clubs from all competitions "until further notice", all but ruling them out of World Cup qualification.

The International Tennis Federation was more lenient - than what the IOC called for - and announced individual athletes would not be banned from taking part in ATP and WTA events.

Although Russian and Belarusian players will play under a neutral flag.

This impacts high-ranked players such as WTA World No.3 Aryna Sabalenka, ATP World No.1 Russian Daniil Medvedev and World No.6 Andrey Rublev.

Now, Halep has called for understanding and said it isn't easy for these athletes to have their flag taken away from them.

Simona Halep (pictured) during a match.
Simona Halep (pictured) has called for understanding for some Russian tennis players during the invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

"I don't think we should judge them, just because they are from the same country," the Romanian said, in a translated interview.

"It's hard for me to say anything. More will probably be decided in the next period, but they are not to blame. I feel sorry for the emotions they have right now. It's not easy to have your flag taken away from your name".

Halep went on to condemn the war in Ukraine and said she hoped it ended immediately.

Russians condemn war on Ukraine

A number of high-profile stars have made bold stands during Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Most recently, Ukraine star Dayana Yastremska said she would donate her winnings from the Lyon Open run to a foundation in Ukraine to help out with the war efforts.

Russian World No.1 Medvedev distanced himself further from his native Russia, with a telling move in the wake of the bloody invasion of Ukraine.

World No.1 Daniil Medvedev (pictured) waiting to return serve.
World No.1 Daniil Medvedev (pictured) is playing under a neutral flag. (Photo by Regina Cortina/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Medvedev last week posted an impassioned call for peace on the day he officially took over from Novak Djokovic as the world's top ranked men's player.

And he doubled down as he said the world owed it to children across the globe to show them that they could grow up in a peaceful world.

Djokovic also offered to lend Ukrainian tennis star Sergiy Stakhovsky support with the retired star having returned to Ukraine to help fight the invasion.

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