Former women’s world number one Victoria Azarenka declares Wimbledon ban for Russian and Belarusian players “has no sense” as the star joined the wave of criticism over the move.
Belarusian ace Azarenka is among the biggest names affected after officials at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) announced their decision in light of the conflict in Ukraine.
Azarenka, 32, is a member of the WTA Player Council and took part in meetings on the sidelines of the Madrid Open this week to discuss potential responses to the Wimbledon sanctions.
“There should be a reaction to that,” said the two-time Australian Open winner. “When you act, there are consequences. The one Wimbledon takes, the one WTA might take [in response].
“If you ask me if I agree with Wimbledon or see their reasoning after having a personal call with them, I don’t see their reasoning,” adds Azarenka.
“It makes no sense and it doesn’t match what they are saying. I have made my position clear on the matter. I will never, ever support war.
“I will never support violence. I will never find any justification for this. That’s all I can say for now.”
There are reports that the WTA and its male counterpart, the ATP, may make Wimbledon an unranked event in response to the decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players.
Both organizations have come out strongly to censure the British grass pitch star’s decision, suggesting it is discriminatory.
The WTA and ATP both allowed Russian and Belarus players to continue on their tours as neutrals after the conflict broke out in Ukraine.
Wimbledon organizers and fellow officials from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) – which banned Russians and Belarusians from all UK tournaments this summer – tried to justify their ban by saying it was in line with the British government policy aimed at Russia.
They also argued that allowing Russian stars such as men’s world number two Daniil Medvedev to compete at SW19 would somehow boost the“Russian regime’s propaganda machine”.
Azarenka, who is a two-time Wimbledon semi-finalist, reportedly discussed the issue during a Zoom call with tournament chief executive Sally Bolton. An unnamed top player also reportedly participated in the presence of a legal representative.
When asked if she could sue, Azarenka replied: “I’m not sure. It’s a complicated question.”
Currently ranked number 17 in the world, Azarenka returned to action in the Spanish capital on Thursday where she earned a straight-sets win over Switzerland’s Viktorija Golubic.
The highest-ranked female star who will be affected by the Wimbledon ban is Belarusian world number four Aryna Sabalenka. Russian Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova, world number 15, will also be absent.
On the men’s side, Russian top 10 star Andrey Rublev will join Medvedev and others in not taking part in the tournament.
Rublev last week denounced the Wimbledon sanctions as “illogical” and “discrimination,” while Serbian world number one Novak Djokovic called them “mad.”
Wimbledon kicks off on June 27 and will run until July 10. The French Open, which begins on May 22, does not plan to impose a ban on Russian and Belarusian players.