Wimbledon organizers confirmed a ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players in a statement on Wednesday, saying, “it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”
Wimbledon, the third grand slam of the year, is set to begin on June 27.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that the ban on Russian players is “unacceptable.”
Government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded to a question about the barring of Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament, which was first reported by The New York Times on Wednesday.
“Making athletes victims of some kind of political prejudices, intrigues, hostile actions towards our country, is unacceptable. One can only express regret here,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
“Considering that Russia is after all a very strong tennis country, our tennis players are in the top lines of the world ranking, the competition itself will suffer from their removal,” Peskov said. “… I would like to wish the guys to do everything in order not to lose shape and not lose their world tennis class.”
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which organizes and hosts the event, told CNN earlier this month that it was “continuing to engage in discussion with the UK Government, the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association), and the international governing bodies of tennis” in relation to the participation of Russian and Belarusian players.
The organizers added that they had planned to make a decision ahead of their entry deadline in mid-May.
The ban prevents several high-ranked players from competing at the iconic grass court grand slam. Four Russian men, including world number two and reigning US Open Champion Daniil Medvedev, are currently ranked in the top 30 of the ATP Tour.
Russia has five women in the top 40 of the WTA Tour rankings.
Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka is currently ranked fourth in the world and was a Wimbledon semi-finalist last year while compatriot Victoria Azarenka, a former world number one, is currently ranked 18th.
The AELTC’s decision is the first time Russian and Belarusian players have been prohibited from competing in an elite tennis event.
Tennis governing bodies had banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion. Individual players are allowed to compete on the ATP and WTA Tours but not under the name or flag of their countries.