Tennis

Wimbledon facing legal battle as Russian and Belarusian stars hire lawyer to challenge ban


Russian and Belarusian players have hired a Paris human rights lawyer to investigate challenging their ban from Wimbledon and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) events this summer. The All England Club has insisted there was “no viable option” after excluding players from both countries due to government guidance following the invasion of Ukraine.

But the group of players want to seek a compromise where they are allowed to play under a neutral flag – like on the ATP and WTA Tours and at the French Open. Legal action will then be considered if they are not allowed to play.

The ATP and WTA Tours held meetings in Madrid this week to discuss potential sanctions against Wimbledon and the LTA. WTA Player Council representative Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who was part of the meetings, claimed the Wimbledon ban “does not make sense”.

She added: “There are going to be consequences. A lot of people will be waiting to see the consequences of those decisions. I think based on that, individuals can make their own choices.”

Azarenka also said: “If you are asking me if I agree with Wimbledon or I see their reasoning after being on a personal call with them, I don’t see their reasoning. It does not make sense and it does not connect to what they are saying.

“I think there should be a reaction to that, that is all I want to say. I have made my stance very clear on the issue. I will never, ever support war. I will never support violence. I will never find any justifications for that. That is all I can say right now.”

The LTA also faces potential fines from the WTA and ATP while the removal of ranking points would hit the fields at warm-up events at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne.

But Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska backed the bans. “How would I be able to play against those players at the tournament when all the world is talking about the war that is being fought against Ukraine?” said the world No 92. “So I think the decision they are making is right.”

Two-time Madrid Masters finalist Azarenka came from a set down to defeat Tamara Zidansek 3-6 6-1 6-3 on Saturday to reach the third round here for the first time since 2016. The former world No 1 said: “The longer the match went on the better I was playing and the more comfortable I felt. I think my attitude was really good today.”

Andy Murray will face Dominic Thiem in the first round of the Masters Madrid in a battle between two Grand Slam champions on the comeback trail.

While the Scot will play his first claycourt match for 18 months, the Austrian suffered a wrist injury in June 2020 and has lost all three matches since his return to action. But the 2020 US Open champion said: “I know it will take time for me to regain my perfect strength and my full potential. But I am ready to embark on this path.”





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