Russian and Belarusian players are set to be allowed to play at the French Open after Roland Garros organisers decided not to follow the lead of Wimbledon.
Sports stars from Russia and Belarus continue to face uncertain futures after Vladimir Putin's widely-condemned military assault on neighbouring Ukraine back in February. Millions have fled the country, and the European response has spilled over into the sporting arena on various fronts.
Last week, Wimbledon officials announced such players will be barred from taking part in the prestigious tournament, which begins in June. It means the likes of US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka and World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will not be playing the grass-court Grand Slam.
However, Roland Garros will not impose the same restrictions as the grass-court tournament, according to French outlet RMC Sport. It means Russian and Belarusian players will be allowed to compete next month, although it will likely be under a neutral flag and their anthems will not be played if they triumph.
The French Tennis Federation are yet to release an official statement for the tournament, which begins May 22. Novak Djokovic and Barbora Krejcikova are the defending champions on the Parisian clay.
Russia and Belarus were booted out of the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup team tournaments following the invasion of Ukraine, although players were allowed to continue playing individually as neutral athletes. Wimbledon instead opted to fully ban the players, which received widespread condemnation.
The Lawn Tennis Association have also moved to prevent players from the two nations from playing in British events preceding the SW19 Grand Slam, including Queen’s, Birmingham and Eastbourne. Wimbledon could even face legal action from the Belarusian Tennis Federation over their stance while the ATP declared the tournament’s sanctions are ‘unfair’, suggesting the players should be allowed to play but not under the flag of their nations.
Djokovic joined a number of leading figures in tennis to hit out at the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players. The World No. 1 – who will be allowed to play despite his unvaccinated status – cannot believe such a decision has been made given the trauma of coming from a war-torn nation.
“I will always be the first one to condemn the war,” said the Serb. “As a child of war, I know what kind of emotional trauma a war leaves.
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“Us in Serbia, we know what was happening here in 1999, ordinary people always suffer, we've had a lot of wars in the Balkans. That being said, I cannot support the Wimbledon decision.
“It's not the athletes' fault. When politics interfere with sports, it usually doesn't turn out well.”
Rublev, who would reportedly be willing to donate his Wimbledon prize money to Ukrainian aid, added: “To be honest, the reasons that they give, there is no meaning, there is no logic for what they propose.
“The things that happen now is complete discrimination of us.”
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