Wimbledon to allow Russian players back days after Ukraine star snubs handshake

The likes of Daniil Medvedev and Victoria Azarenka should get the chance to shine at Wimbledon this summer with organisers set to lift the ban on Russian and Belarusian players.

Last year, the All England Tennis Club ignited a row when they barred entrants from both countries from competing, citing the war in Ukraine. The authorities responded by stripping the tournament of ranking points, a move which ultimately penalised eventual champions Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina.

The iconic grass court event was the only Grand Slam tournament to impose the sanction, but is now set for a U-turn following mounting pressure from governing bodies. Indeed, the Lawn Tennis Association had warned the All England Cub it could be barred from running events at Queen’s and Eastbourne if the measure continued.

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According to a report in the Daily Mail, the players in question will compete as neutrals and can be removed from the draw if they show support for the war. Regardless, the change in stance is likely to anger Ukrainian competitors.

Indeed, the latest developments come just days after Marta Kostyuk snubbed her Russian opponent after winning the ATX Open in Austin, Texas. The Kyiv-born player, 20, toppled Varvara Gracheva in straight sets and after taking match point, showed her emotion before shaking hands with the umpire.

However, she refused to do the same with Gracheva, 22, making a point of walking on past her rival. Instead, she made her way to the other side of the court and celebrated with fans.

Kostyuk later dedicated her success to compatriots “fighting and dying” in her homeland. She added: “Everyone who is in the stands and everyone who is watching, especially in Ukraine, I want to say Slava Ukraini ('Glory to Ukraine').”

Should Russian and Belarusian players be allowed to compete at Wimbledon? Let us know in the comments section

The 2022 ban arguably backfired on bosses at SW19 though, when Elena Rybakina became the youngest Wimbledon champion for 12 years. She was billed as the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Slam, but was born in Moscow and still lives in her birth land, only switching allegiance in 2018 for funding reasons.

But her win was celebrated in Russia. Indeed, the country's tennis federation released a statement claiming the newly crowned champion was their "product."


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