WTA chief promises ‘strong reaction’ after Wimbledon and grass-court ban for Russian and Belarusian players

General view of Wimbledon logo

WTA CEO Steve Simon has expressed his “extreme disappointment” in the decision to ban tennis players from Russia and Belarus from tournaments in the UK, including Wimbledon, saying they will take action.

The All England Club (AELTC) and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced on Wednesday that players from the two European countries will not be allowed to compete at grass-court events in the United Kingdom following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

The move was criticised by the ATP, WTA and ITF as the three organisations opted to allow players from those countries to compete as individuals with the flags removed and no anthems played.

Andrey Rublev hits out at ‘illogical’ Wimbledon ban, saying ‘it is complete discrimination against us’

Simon insists that athletes should not be penalised for the atrocities of their governments.

He told The Tennis Podcast: “People take the position that sports and politics shouldn’t match and shouldn’t be intertwined, but that’s not the reality. At times sports does cross into politics and here is a situation where politics is crossing into sports. It is real life.

“The announcement that came out was extremely disappointing, to say the least. The one thing that this sport has always agreed upon, we don’t agree on a lot of things, but the one thing we have always been united on was that entry into our events – ITF, ATP, WTA, Grand Slams, it doesn’t matter – has always been based up on merit and without discrimination.

“We have never ever denied an athlete from competing in any of our events due to whatever decisions their governments may or may not make, no matter how reprehensible they may have been.”

He added: “We took the position earlier in the year that these athletes need to be able to continue to play, they should not be penalised based on the actions of their government.

“We stay strong behind that, I will not back off from that, I feel it is a fundamental principal.”

Britain hosts three WTA events in the lead-up to Wimbledon and Simon said the organisation’s boards and councils would meet in the near future and AELTC and the LTA can expect “strong reactions”.

“The Wimbledon decision is against the Grand Slam rules as well as the Grand Slam agreement that we have. The LTA, which has WTA sanctioned events, the decision is in violation of the WTA bylaws and rules with respect to entry of athletes,” he said.

“So we do have the ability to react to both of those. We don’t have the same jurisdiction over the Grand Slams as we do our own sanctioned events. We have precedents where these situations may have occurred where fines and tournament sanctions have been imposed.

“So we will be evaluating how we proceed. I do think you’ll see some strong reactions that will come from us but what those are and how far they’ll go is still to be determined.”