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Women’s Tennis Association chief warns of ‘strong reaction’ to ban of Russians, Belarusians from Wimbledon

WTA Chief Executive Officer Steve Simon smiles during a retirement ceremony for Martina Hingis in Singapore on Oct. 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim, File)

The head of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) warned of a “strong reaction” to the latest ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the prestigious Wimbledon tournament due to Moscow’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. 

In an episode of the “Tennis Podcast” published Thursday, Steve Simon told the hosts that Wimbledon’s decision to ban certain players from the tournament was against Grand Slam rules. 

The WTA chief added that Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) decision to ban the players also violated the association’s regulations regarding athlete entry into the annual competition.

“We don’t have the same jurisdiction over the Grand Slams as we do (over) our own sanctioned events. We have precedents … where these situations may have occurred where fines and tournament sanctions have been imposed,” Simon told the hosts. 

“We need to sit down with our tournament, our player councils and I suppose our board and see where everything’s at. I do think that 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,” he added. 

Simon’s remarks come as The All England Lawn Tennis Club, the group that organizes and hosts Wimbledon, announced on Wednesday that it has banned Russian and Belorussian players from competing in this year’s contest due to Russia’s attack on Ukraine.  

Several tennis players, such as Elina Svitolina and Novak Djokovic, have criticized the tournament’s decision, with Svitolina saying the tournament should make an exemption for Russian and Belarusian players who publicly condemned the conflict.

“Because if, for example, they didn’t choose … they didn’t vote for this government, then it’s fair that they will be allowed to play and compete,” Svitolina, who is of Ukrainian descent, said in an interview. 

Simon also said in the podcast that WTA and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) have started discussions over the issue. 

“People take the position that sports and politics shouldn’t match and shouldn’t be intertwined, but that’s not the reality,” Simon said. “At times sports does cross into politics and here is a situation where politics is crossing into sports.” 

“It is real life,” he added. “The announcement that came out was extremely disappointing, to say the least.”

Tags London Russia-Ukraine conflict Russia-Ukraine conflict Steve Simon The All England Lawn Tennis Club United Kingdom Wimbledon Women's Tennis Association Womens Tennis Assocaition WTA WTA

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