The US Open will allow tennis players from Russia and Belarus to compete this year despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, which prompted Wimbledon to ban these athletes.
US Tennis Association CEO and executive director Lew Sherr, whose group runs the US Open, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that the USTA board had decided to let Russians and Belarusians enter the tournament due to “concern about holding individual athletes accountable for the actions and decisions of their governments”.
Sherr said athletes from Russia and Belarus will play at Flushing Meadows under a neutral flag – an arrangement that has been used at various tennis tournaments around the world, including the French Open, which has ended. June 5.
The US Open begins on August 29 in New York.
Since Russia began its attacks on Ukraine in February, Russian athletes have been barred from participating in many sports, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers. Belarus helped Russia in the war.
Russia was also excluded from two international tennis team competitions of which it was the defending champion: the Billie Jean King Cup and the Davis Cup.
The All England Club, where Wimbledon’s main draw begins on June 27, announced in April that it would bar all Russians and Belarusians from its courts – meaning current men’s No. is not eligible to participate. Medvedev is the defending champion at the US Open.
The ban from Wimbledon drew immediate criticism from the WTA and ATP, as well as some top players, such as defending champion Novak Djokovic.
In May, the WTA and ATP said they would award no ranking points for Wimbledon this year, an unprecedented rebuke from the All England Club. Some players, including four-time major champion and former No.1 Naomi Osaka, have said they would consider skipping Wimbledon.
The ATP said all points won at Wimbledon in 2021 will fall on a player’s record and no new points will be won there this year. The WTA hasn’t decided exactly how last year’s All England Club ranking points will be handled, but no new points can be added based on a player’s performance this time around.
Sherr told the AP that what happened with Wimbledon — both the All England Club’s decision to bar players from certain countries and the backlash from the tours — played no part in who was chosen. the USTA to let in Russian and Belarusian players.
“Our discussion was really about substance and really about principle on both sides of this argument. It was not a business issue versus an ethical issue,” he said. “There are arguments on both sides. Are you perceived as supporting the atrocious acts of a government? And at the same time: would you hold an individual athlete responsible for this?
Sherr said the WTA and ATP professional tours held a series of conversations with Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian athletes and various tennis governing bodies, and officials from both tours spoke to the USTA board. before his decision.
The USTA plans to offer additional financial assistance for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and will use the US Open as a platform to raise awareness about the war.
“It’s a horrible situation and we, along with everyone else in tennis, absolutely condemn what is an unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and everything is framed in that context,” Sherr said. “As difficult as some of these decisions may be, none of it matches the hardships in Ukraine right now, nor the tragedies and atrocities.”
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