Wimbledon will consider lifting the ban on Russian and Belarusian players next year after the LTA was threatened with being expelled from the ATP Tour. The UK government yesterday (Wednesday) branded the ATP and WTA as “outcasts” after the LTA was fined another £820,000 ($1million) for suspending players from the two nations over the invasion of Ukraine.
Tennis’ ongoing civil war has now seen the £820,000 fine imposed by the WTA matched by the ATP after Wimbledon was stripped of ranking points. The LTA has also been threatened with expulsion from the ATP if the suspensions are repeated.
They said the fine already threatens the staging of smaller events in this country. Wimbledon will have to make a decision in the spring over a further ban for Russian and Belarusian players.
Other Grand Slams allow players from the two nations to compete under a neutral flag – and there have been no political demonstrations at tennis events. But events in Ukraine could change by March or April – and the UK government are opposed to softening the hardline stance against Russia.
In a strongly worded statement, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine.
“The UK has taken a world-leading role to build this international response. We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries.
“Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result. This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA.
“I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.” The ATP have decided to impose a fine of $200,000 for each of the five ATP grass-court events staged in the UK at Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham, and Ilkley.
The WTA fined the LTA $750,000 and the All England Club $250,000 because they hold the licence to the Birmingham event. An LTA statement said: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome.
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The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion. The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules – with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.
“The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA’s fine will have a material impact on the LTA’s ability to develop and host tennis in this country. For example, we had intended to host a number of ATP Challenger-level events to give more opportunities to lower-ranked players in the first quarter of 2023 and will now not be able to do this, particularly given the possibility of further fines.
“We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”