The Wimbledon tennis tournament announced Wednesday it is banning Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s matches starting in late June because of what officials said was Russia’s “unjustified” invasion of Ukraine.
The ban will keep some of the world’s top players from competing at one of the world’s premier tournaments at London’s All England Club.
Among them are Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, currently ranked second globally, and No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the men’s draw and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, ranked 15th on the women's side.
Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, No. 4 in the world, was a Wimbledon semifinalist last year. Her compatriot Victoria Azarenka is a former top-ranked player and currently is No. 18.
“It is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible,” the All England Club said in a statement. “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 Wimbledon championships.
The officials said they would reconsider the ban "if circumstances change materially between now and June."
Wimbledon begins June 27 and runs through July 10.
The ban on the Belarus contenders was included because the country is a key staging area for the Ukraine attack, which Russia calls a "special military operation" rather than an invasion or war.
Wimbledon has not banned athletes from countries since after World War II, when players from Germany and Japan were not allowed to compete.
The French Open has decided to let Russian and Belarusian players compete at its tournament starting May 22, but as neutral athletes not aligned with their homelands.
Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev told the country's Sport Express newspaper that there was nothing it could do about the Wimbledon ban.
"I think this decision is wrong, but there is nothing we can change," Tarpischev said. "The [Russian] Tennis Federation has already done everything it could.”