British tennis chiefs are set to abandon their controversial ban on Russian and Belarusian players ahead of this year’s Wimbledon championships, it was reported Friday.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the UK’s governing Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
Russian and Belarusian players were eventually barred from all five ATP tournaments staged by the LTA, including the longstanding Queen’s Club event in London.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, imposed a similar suspension.
But Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Friday: “All expectations suggest that the AELTC will lower the ban on Russians and Belarusians”.
However, it added players from those countries may need to sign a declaration promising they will not “promote or glorify” Russia president Vladimir Putin’s war in any way during the tournament.
Jon Wertheim, of the US-based Sports Illustrated magazine, tweeted: “Hearing that @Wimbledon and the LTA will NOT repeat last year’s decision to prohibit the Russians/Belarusians from competing.”
An AELTC spokeswoman told AFP: “We are continuing to work very closely with the UK Government and key stakeholders in tennis on this matter.”
The ATP, which runs the men’s professional tour, responded to last year’s ban by hitting British tennis with a $1 million fine, split between a $750,000 punishment for the LTA and a $250,000 penalty for the AELTC.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association also stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points.
Ironically, the women’s singles title was won by Russian-born Elena Rybakina representing Kazakhstan.
There are now fears that if the ban remains in place, leading events such as Queen’s and Eastbourne could be removed from Britain, with yet more huge fines to follow.
None of the sport’s three other Grand Slams in Australia, France and the United States have imposed similar bans.
Players from Russia and Belarus also continue to feature at tour events although they are prevented from competing under the name or flag of their countries.
This year’s Wimbledon runs from July 3-16.