The All England Club will pay for two rooms for Ukrainian tennis players and their teams during the grass-court season and will donate 1 British pound (about $1.25) for each ticket sold at Wimbledon to relief efforts in Ukraine — which could top 500,000 pounds ($620,000) — after deciding to allow players from Russia and Belarus back into the tournament despite the ongoing war.
Club chairman Ian Hewitt said at Tuesday’s annual spring news conference for the oldest Grand Slam tournament that letting Russians and Belarusians compete at Wimbledon after banning them a year ago because of the invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022 was “probably the most difficult decision during my chairmanship”.
Hewitt and club chief executive Sally Bolton said Wimbledon will not be broadcast in Russia or Belarus, and their media will not be allowed at the tournament this year. They also said flags or sign of support for either of those countries and the war will be barred from the grounds and that players have started signing a declaration that they will not show support for Russia, Belarus or the war in Ukraine, a requirement for them to participate.
On other topics, Hewitt and Bolton said:
— In-match coaching from the stands will be permitted during Wimbledon for the first time on a trial basis;
— Roger Federer, who won eight of his 20 Grand Slam titles at the All England Club and retired last year, will be celebrated in some way during this year’s tournament;
— Billie Jean King and other members of the Original 9 will be honoured on the 50th anniversary of the founding of the WTA women’s tour;
— men’s doubles will be reduced from best-of-five-set matches to best-of-three-sets.
On March 31, the All England Club sent out a statement announcing it would let players from Russia and Belarus enter Wimbledon this year “as ‘neutral’ athletes and complying with appropriate conditions”. The club said those players would be prohibited from expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and from receiving funds from Russia or Belarus or “companies operated or controlled by” those two countries.
Among the players now eligible to return to Wimbledon: Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, who is ranked No. 2 and won the Australian Open for the year’s first Grand Slam title in January, and Daniil Medvedev of Russia, a former No. 1 who won the 2021 US Open title.
Others include Victoria Azarenka, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 from Belarus, and Karen Khachanov, a two-time major semifinalist and former member of the top 10 from Russia.
Since Russia, with help from Belarus, first launched its attack more than a year ago, their athletes have been held out of various team sports competitions, including the men’s World Cup in football and the Billie Jean King Cup and Davis Cup in tennis.
Tennis tournaments outside of Britain have allowed individual Russian and Belarusian players to compete as “neutral” athletes — their nationalities are not listed in the official brackets, results or graphics on TV broadcasts of matches.
Main-draw action at Wimbledon begins this year on July 3; the women’s singles final is July 15, and the men’s is July 16.
In April 2022, the All England Club said it would ban Russians or Belarusians from entering Wimbledon. That drew immediate criticism from the WTA and the ATP, along with some prominent players, such as Novak Djokovic, and led the two tours to say in May that they would withhold all of their rankings points from Wimbledon, an unprecedented move.
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