Russian player avoids Wimbledon ban after changing nationality

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·Sports Reporter
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Natela Dzalamidze (pictured) hitting a backhand at the French Open.
Moscow-born tennis player Natela Dzalamidze (pictured) will be able to play at Wimbledon after changing nationality to play for Georgia. (Getty Images)

Russian-born doubles star Natela Dzalamidze will be able to play at this year's Wimbledon tournament after changing nationalities before the grand slam.

Dzalamidze, a 29-year-old who is currently World No.44 in the doubles rankings, is listed as being from Georgia on the WTA Tour website.

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This is despite being born in Moscow.

She has also been named for Wimbledon’s entry list for the tournament, which begins June 27.

Dzalamidze will play with partner Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia.

This is despite Wimbledon causing controversy after banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at this year's grand slam.

The ban will see high-profile players such as Russian ATP World No.1 Daniil Medvedev and World No.8 Andrey Rublev banned, while Belarusian WTA World No.6 Aryna Sabalenka all miss the grand slam.

Wimbledon said that Dzalamidze would be playing under the Georgian flag after changing her nationality.

“Player nationality, defined as the flag they play under at professional events, is an agreed process that is governed by the Tours and the ITF (International Tennis Federation),” an All England Club spokeswoman said in an email to The Associated Press.

Wimbledon's ban on Russian athletes

The larger sporting world has grappled with how to deal with Russian competitors after Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, despite many athletes having spoken out against the invasion.

The ATP and WTA tours have allowed Russian and Belarussian players to compete under a neutral flag, however Wimbledon took things a step further by banning them outright.

This prompted the ATP and WTA to strip the grand slam of handing out rankings points in 2022.

During the drama, a number of high-profile players such as Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic have weighed-in on the ban of their colleagues.

The move caused division within the tennis world after a number of players claiming they would skip the tournament because of the rankings divide.

Daniil Medvedev (pictured) speaking at a Halle press conference.
Russia's Daniil Medvedev (pictured) is banned from playing Wimbledon in 2022. (Photo by CARMEN JASPERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

Medvedev has expressed his desire to compete at Wimbledon, but it doesn't appear the All England Club is set to reverse its decision.

Despite the drama, All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said the decision was made after careful consideration, taking into account UK government guidance for sporting bodies with the aim of limiting Russia's influence.

"These are in effect two options — declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific written declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players," he said at Wimbledon's annual media briefing.

He added: "First, even if we were to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players with written declarations, we would risk their success or participation at Wimbledon being used to benefit the propaganda machine of the Russian regime, which we could not accept."

with AP

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