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WTA: Wimbledon’s Russia ban face ‘battle of wills’

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Russia’s Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova returns to Czech Republic’s Karolina Muchova during their women’s singles at Wimbledon in 2021. AFP

WTA: Wimbledon’s Russia ban face ‘battle of wills’

WTA president Steve Simon warned Wimbledon that they face “strong reactions” to their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players and the week ahead could see more twists in the controversy which has split tennis.

The All England Club (AELTC) said they had decided to bar the likes of Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, the AELTC will hold its annual Wimbledon event launch where the saga will dominate the agenda.

Meanwhile, ATP and WTA officials are expected to meet on the sidelines of the Madrid Open from next week to discuss their response to the crisis.

As the Grand Slam tournaments are autonomous, possible sanctions by the ATP and the WTA could include a refusal to award ranking points at the June 27-July 10 Grand Slam tournament.

That could reduce Wimbledon to the status of a high-profile exhibition event.

The ATP does not seem inclined to take legal action, while according to French daily L’Equipe, which obtained an email sent by the WTA to its players, the body is studying “the actions that you (the players) could take according to the Grand Slam regulations”.

“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,” Simon told The Tennis Podcast at the weekend.

“We don’t have the same jurisdiction over the Grand Slams as we do over our own sanctioned events.”

There are three potential avenues of action, Tatiana Vassine, a lawyer in sports law, told AFP.

They lie in discrimination based on nationality, an attack on the freedom to work and the right to equal treatment.

“It’s a measure which it seems applies only to tennis players – other professionals of Russian and Belarusian nationality are able to continue their professional activity on English soil,” she said.

However, she believes that Wimbledon is only at the “declaration of intent” stage.

“We must not underestimate the ‘soft power’ of sport,” she said.

The ATP and WTA have already described the ban as “unfair” and “very disappointing”.

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