'Complete discrimination': Russian star hits out at Wimbledon 'disgrace'

·5-min read
Pictured left is Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev alongside a photo of President Vladimir Putin.
Banned Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev has voiced his opposition to Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine. Pic: Getty

Andrey Rublev has blasted Wimbledon's ban on Russian and Belarusian players for this year's grand slam tournament, describing the controversial move as "complete discrimination".

Wimbledon on Wednesday banned all Russian and Belarusian players from taking part in this year's Grand Slam event in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

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The contentious move was branded a "disgrace" by many in the tennis world, with the men's and women's tours - the ATP and WTA respectively - as well as players past and present expressing their opposition to the bans.

The decision means Rublev as well as compatriot and World No.2 Daniil Medvedev, as well as women's fourth-ranked Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus sit out the June 27-July 10 tournament.

Reacting to the news, Rublev has slammed Wimbledon decision-makers for what he calls an "illogical" move that won't change anything as far as Russia's war on Ukraine is concerned.

"The reasons they (Wimbledon) gave us had no sense, they were illogical," said Rublev on the sidelines of the Belgrade ATP event.

"What is happening now is complete discrimination against us."

"Banning Russian or Belarusian players....will not change anything," added Rublev, who said redirecting Wimbledon's prize fund, which last year totalled £35 million ($45.6 million), would have a more positive effect.

"To give all the prize money to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that would do something.

"Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory."

At the Dubai tournament in February, Rublev scribbled "No war please" on a courtside TV camera after a victory.

He and Medvedev have distanced themselves from the bloody war being waged by the country's President Vladimir Putin, both removing symbols of their nationality from social media and not competing under the Russian flag.

At the moment, players representing Russia and Belarus are allowed to take part in ATP and WTA events but are barred from competing under the name or flag of their countries.

Their national teams have, however, been banned from the Davis Cup and BJK Cup competitions.

Seen here, Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev pose with their Davis Cup trophies.
Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev are banned from Wimbledon. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Rublev has found an ally in Ukrainian women's star Elina Svitolina, who says Russian and Belarusian players who do speak out against the invasion "should be allowed" to compete at Wimbledon.

"We don't want them banned completely," former world number three Svitolina, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2019, told the BBC.

"If players don't speak out against the Russian government then it is the right thing to ban them."

"We just want them to speak up, if they are with us and the rest of the world or the Russian government. If they didn't choose, they didn't vote for this government, then it's fair they should be allowed to play and compete."

Pictured here, Elina Svitolina  in action against Heather Watson in her second round match at the Miami Open in 2022.
Ukrainian star Elina Svitolina says Russian and Belarusian players who have denounced the war should not be banned from playing. Pic: Getty

Wimbledon bans spark fierce backlash

The Belarus Tennis Federation (BTF) has also hit out at the Wimbledon decision, accusing UK government officials of "incompetence and ignorance".

"The BTF categorically condemns the decision taken by the organisers of Wimbledon to suspend Belarusian and Russian tennis players," they said in a strongly-worded statement.

"Such destructive actions in no way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis."

The body added: "At the moment, 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, first of all, Belarusian tennis players around the world, and tennis in the Republic of Belarus as a whole."

US tennis trailblazer Billie Jean King, a founder of the WTA in 1973, said she "cannot support" the Wimbledon decision.

"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," said the six-time Wimbledon champion.

"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."

World No.1 Novak Djokovic also criticised the "crazy" decision made by Wimbledon.

"The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good," Djokovic had said Wednesday.

Djokovic's semi-final opponent in Belgrade, Karen Khachanov of Russia said he was devastated to miss Wimbledon.

"I am just really sad, disappointed, devastated that these things are happening right now," said then world number 26, who made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon in 2021.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, said it was acting to "limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible".

But the ATP and WTA said the ban was "unfair" and "very disappointing".

with agencies

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