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Russians still allowed to compete in major tennis events

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Daniil Medvedev returns the ball to Rafael Nadal during their Mexico ATP Open 500 men’s singles semi-final tennis match on February 25. AFP

Russians still allowed to compete in major tennis events

Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be allowed to continue competing in ATP and WTA tournaments and Grand Slam events, the sport’s governing bodies said on Tuesday.

A joint statement from the ATP, WTA, ITF and the organisers of the four Grand Slam competitions said Russians and Belarusians can keep competing in professional events “at this time”, despite Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine.

However, they will not be allowed to compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus.

The ITF have suspended both countries from team events, the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup.

And the ATP and WTA tournaments set to be held in Moscow in October have been suspended.

The International Olympic Committee on Monday urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events.

FIFA and UEFA followed suit by banning Russia from international football tournaments with World Athletics and cycling’s UCI among the many governing bodies also to implement a ban.

“A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine in the past week,” said the joint statement.

“Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and we commend the many tennis players who have spoken out and taken action against this unacceptable act of aggression. We echo their calls for the violence to end and peace to return.”

However, the decision to stop short of an outright ban is a controversial one.

Part of the IOC’s reasoning for their recommendation was the impact the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes could have on Ukrainians competing.

World No15 Elina Svitolina had said she would not compete against Russian or Belarusian opponents unless all national emblems, flags and colours were removed.

Svitolina is due to play Russian Anastasia Potapova in the first round of the Monterrey Open in Mexico later on Tuesday.

Complete fear

The ruling means new men’s world No1 Daniil Medvedev is free to compete on tour.

Russia’s Medvedev on Monday became the first man since 2004 outside the game’s “Big Four” of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray to occupy the top spot.

Three of the women’s top 20, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka and Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, would have been affected by a ban.

Medvedev is one of many Russian and Belarusian tennis stars that have used their profile on social media to plead for peace.

“I want to ask for peace in the world, for peace between countries,” he posted on Sunday.

World No6 Andrey Rublev signed the on-court camera lens “no war please” on his way to winning in Dubai last week.

“I have represented Russia all my life. This is my home and my country. But now I am in complete fear,” Pavlyuchenkova posted in a lengthy statement.

“I’m just an athlete who plays tennis. I am not a politician, not a public figure, I have no experience in this. I can only publicly disagree with these decisions taken and openly talk about it.

“Stop the violence, stop the war.”

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