Russians’ return to Wimbledon sparks explosives: ‘Have us removed’

The Belarusian tennis player Aryna Sabalenka once again refused to ask questions about the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine at Wimbledon. “I’m not going to talk about politics here. If you have any political question, write to the WTA or the tournament organizers. You can send them copies of my interviews from past tournaments,” said the world number two.

At the French Open in Paris, after months of reluctance, the Belarusian said, referring to President Alexander Lukashenko: “I don’t support war, which also means that I don’t support Lukashenko right now.”

Previously, she had canceled two mandatory press conferences with reference to her “mental health” and had interviews conducted by the WTA players’ association distributed.

The Ukrainian player Elina Switolina renewed her criticism of Sabalenka at Wimbledon, against whom she failed in the quarterfinals in Paris. The 28-year-old, who was absent last year due to the birth of her daughter, was frustrated and upset that Belarusian and Russian players, with the exception of Daria Kassatkina, did not take a clear stance against the war: “It’s sad that no one else is this responsibility.”

“We’ve Safely Moved Away From Each Other”

After being excluded last year, Belarusians and Russians are allowed again this time, not least due to pressure from the professional associations WTA (women) and ATP (men). They must compete as “neutral athletes.”

Svitolina admitted that relations with other players, with whom she was previously friendly, have suffered since the beginning of the war. “We’ve certainly drifted apart, it’s really noticeable,” she said.

WTA and ATP did not award world ranking points last year because of the exclusion they disapproved of. They also demanded penalties of one million dollars each from the English Association (LTA) and the AELTC. The penalties have now been halved.

Hank Peter

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