Wimbledon may be threatened after ATP issues huge fine for Russian ban

Daniil Medvedev among the Russian players banned by Wimbledon

Britain’s Lawn Tennis Association have suggested they will now have to abandon some of its plans to expand its tournament schedule for 2023, after the ATP issued them with a $1million fine following their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from their tournaments last summer.

The ATP decision will lead to claims that they are comfortable with the prospect of Russian President Vladimir Putin gaining positive publicity from Russian players winning major tennis events by coming out strongly against the governing body of the British game.

It is also understood that the LTA has been threatened with expulsion from the Tour if it repeats the ban, imposed earlier this year due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russians and Belarusians were controversially prevented from competing at the LTA’s five ATP events; Queen’s Club, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.

The All England Club also banned them from playing at Wimbledon, which was subsequently stripped of its ranking points by the ATP and the WTA.

The WTA had also issued a $1million fine ($750,000 to the LTA and £250,000 to the AELTC) which Britain’s governing body of tennis has appealed against.

The LTA said it is considering its response to the latest sanction and accused the ATP of a “lack of empathy” over the situation in Ukraine.

A statement read: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome. 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.”

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan waded into the row, urging the ATP and WTA to reconsider.

“Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine,” said Donelan.

“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 statement from the British government will be a source of huge embarrassment for ATP chiefs, who face a public relations nightmare as they attempt to support Russian and Belarusian players.

By issuing such a strong fine, they have already handed Putin and his government a publicity boost and the next stage in this story could be even more divisive.

If Wimbledon authorities and the LTA decide to ban Russian and Belarusian players once again in 2023, the pre-Wimbledon tournaments in the UK will be under threat.

The LTA’s tournaments that include their marquee events at Queen’s Club and Eastbourne went ahead with ranking points still attached in 2022, but that will almost certainly change if they decide to ban Russian and Belarusian players once more.

There are also likely to be threat to Wimbledon authorities if they opt to stand by their stance and continue with the ban for players like Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev and Aryna Sabalenka.