The Belarusian Tennis Federation is seeking legal advice over the country’s Wimbledon ban of players while the WTA threatens “strong reactions” over the decision by the All England Club and Lawn Tennis Association.
The two bodies announced on Wednesday that players from Russia and Belarus will not be able to participate in this summer’s grass-court events due to the measures taken by their countries in Ukraine.
Players from both nations were allowed to continue playing under a neutral flag and the ban was condemned by the ATP and WTA.
In a strong statement on Thursday, the BTF hit out at tennis authorities and the UK government, saying: “The Belarusian Tennis Federation categorically condemns the decision taken by Wimbledon organizers to suspend Belarusian and Russian tennis players.
“Such destructive actions do not in any way contribute to the resolution of conflicts, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis.
“Obviously the reason for such a difficult decision was the direct pressure from the British government, for example, the statements of Minister for Sport Nigel Huddleston on the need to allow Belarusian and Russian tennis players to participate in the tournament only after signing a special statement condemning the special operation and providing guarantees that the athletes do not support the current power in their country and do not receive public funding.
“Such statements testify to the incompetence and ignorance of British officials of the public sports support system in Belarus and Russia.
“The illegal decisions of international tennis organizations regarding our athletes undermine, first of all, the reputation of these organizations, and the inconsistency of statements and actions between them only confirms incompetence and unilateral decision-making.
“At present, BTF management consultations with international law firms on sports law are ongoing and a strategy is being developed that aims to protect, above all, the players of Belarusian tennis around the world, and tennis in the Republic of Belarus as a whole.
“The BTF is taking all possible measures to level the current situation and ensures that it will continue to defend the rights of Belarusian tennis players to participate in international tournaments.”
Britain is hosting three WTA events ahead of Wimbledon, in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne, and chief executive Steve Simon has said the organisation’s boards will meet next week to decide on further action. to take.
He told the Tennis Podcast: “The Wimbledon decision is against Grand Slam rules as well as the Grand Slam agreement that we have. The LTA, which has WTA sanctioned events, the decision is in violation WTA statutes and rules regarding athlete registration.
“So we have the ability to react to both. We don’t have the same expertise on Grand Slam tournaments as we do on our own sanctioned events. We have precedents where these situations have occurred where fines and tournament sanctions have been imposed.
“So we will assess how we are doing. I think you will see strong reactions from us, but what are they and how far they will go remains to be determined.
The decision will affect three players from the top 10 in singles – Russians Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev in the men’s and Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the women’s.
Speaking after beating Jiri Lehecka at the Serbia Open, Rublev told reporters: “Yesterday we had a call, a few players and Wimbledon, about the situation and how maybe we can see some solutions and to be honest, the reasons they give, there is no sense, not even logic what they have proposed.
It had previously been suggested that Russian and Belarusian players might be allowed to play if they speak out against the invasion of Ukraine, and Rublev added: “I understand if they ban us and at least that would be half a percent change but it’s not okay.” do anything.
“I was trying to explain that maybe if we really want to help – because what’s happening now is completely discriminating against us, and that’s not, I think, what the English government is proposing.
“If there is a declaration that we have to sign, and in addition to giving all the prize money to humanitarian aid, to the families who are suffering, to the children who are suffering, I think this decision at least will do something. ”
Novak Djokovic and Martina Navratilova both condemned Wimbledon’s stance on Wednesday while Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina, who criticized Russian and Belarus players for not speaking out publicly against the invasion, also did not support the decision, telling the BBC: “We don’t want them banned altogether.
Writing on Twitter, WTA Founder Billie Jean King wrote, “One of the guiding principles of founding the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place. to compete.
“I stood by it in 1973 and I stand by it today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament simply because of their nationality.