Daniil Medvedev, the Russian player currently sitting at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, may not be allowed to play at Wimbledon unless he denounces Russian president Vladimir Putin.
That was the situation outlined during a meeting at British Parliament on Tuesday, where sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed discussions were taking place to prevent supporters of Putin from entering the world’s oldest tennis tournament amid Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s tennis teams have already been thrown out of the Davis and Billie Jean King Cup, but Huddleston indicated the government wanted sanctions to go further.
From The Telegraph:
Giving evidence to the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, Huddleston said: “It needs to go beyond that. We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Vladimir Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to try and get some assurances along those lines.”
Asked whether individual Russian and Belarusian athletes wanting to come to the UK would be required to “denounce” Putin’s invasion, Huddleston said the details were still being discussed, including with other countries.
He added: “It would be better if we can decide some broad global consensus on this.”
Such an action would affect Medvedev and any other Russian and Belarusian tennis players, who are currently not allowed to play under their national flags while the Ukrainian invasion continues. There are currently four Russian players in the ATP top 30, while the WTA has three Russians and two Belarusians in its top 30.
The world of sports has seen an overwhelming and potentially unprecedented wave of bans against Russia’s teams and athletes since the country’s military made its move across the Ukrainian border. That has included suspensions from international competition in hockey, soccer, figure skating and many more, as well organizations removing events and business from the country and governments freezing Putin allies’ assets.
The potential Wimbledon ban may be the first to come with a demand of a personal political statement, though, which will undoubtedly be controversial.
Russian tennis players have denounced invasion of Ukraine
Several Russian athletes have already denounced their country’s invasion, including WTA No. 3 singles player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Others, such as Medvedev and ATP No. 7 Andrey Rublev have taken the more general step of calling for peace. Even Washington Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin, a fervent Putin supporter in the past, has called for “no more war.”
Few, if any, have directly criticized Putin by name, however, and you don’t need to be a geopolitical expert to understand why. Criticizing the autocrat, especially when his government has potential leverage over you, is dangerous business.