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Russian and Belarusian players banned from Wimbledon Tennis Championships

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By AP  with Euronews
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A spectator holding a Russian flag watches during the 2021 Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London.
A spectator holding a Russian flag watches during the 2021 Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali, File

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus have been banned from competing at this year's Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

The All England Club announced on Wednesday that Russian and Belarusian athletes would not be able to play due to the war in Ukraine.

“It is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts ... to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible,” a statement read.

“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.”

Russian athletes have been prevented from competing in many sports and tournaments following their country’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus has also been accused by Kyiv of facilitating the movement of Russian troops.

Wednesday’s move signals the first time a tennis tournament has told players from Russia and Belarus they are not welcome.

The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was quick to criticise the All England Club for a “unilateral" and "unfair" decision.

“Our sport is proud to operate on the fundamental principles of merit and fairness, where players compete as individuals to earn their place in tournaments,” the ATP said in a statement, adding that the decision “has the potential to set a damaging precedent for the game.”

Among the prominent men’s players affected by the ban are reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and world No. 8 Andrey Rublev.

The women’s players affected include No. 4 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the French Open runner-up last year.

Global tennis authorities had previously decided that players from Belarus and Russia could compete in WTA, ATP and Grand Slam tournaments but not under the name or flag of their country.

Both nations were also kicked out of the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup team competitions that Russia had both won.

The French Open, which starts on May 22, will be the first Grand Slam tournament held since Russia invaded Ukraine in February and is expected to permit Russian and Belarussian players to compete as so-called “neutral” athletes.

The All England Club said that if “circumstances change materially" before Wimbledon begins on June 27, it would “respond accordingly.”

“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,” All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said.