Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina said the grasscourt Grand Slam had taken the correct decision to reverse its ban on Russian and Belarusian players and allow them to compete at this year’s tournament as “neutral” athletes.
Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam to ban competitors from Russia and Belarus last year after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and players competed as individual athletes without national affiliation at the other majors and the tours.
Organisers said Friday’s move to reverse the ban was an “incredibly difficult decision” and that they “condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion.” Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation.”
Russian-born Rybakina, who switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018, claimed the Wimbledon title last year but missed out on 2,000 ranking points as a result of the men’s ATP and women’s WTA penalising the Grand Slam for its ban.
The 23-year-old said that she had no problem with Russian and Belarusian players competing without their national flags.
“They have been playing like this for all the tournaments, so it (Wimbledon) was only Grand Slam they were not allowed,” Rybakina told reporters.
“So I think that’s the way that they are playing, without any flags. I think it’s the right decision, I guess.”
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Players will be prohibited from expressing support for the invasion and must not receive funding from Russian or Belarusian states, Wimbledon organisers added.
Twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, who stunned world number seven Rybakina 7-6(14) 6-2 in the Miami Open final on Saturday, had opposed the Grand Slam’s decision.
“I’m really appreciating that Wimbledon didn’t take them last year,” the Czech player said on Friday.
Kvitova had added athletes Russia and Belarus should also not be allowed to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics.
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