Iga Świątek: World No. 1 says tennis missed opportunity in not banning Russian, Belarusian players



Tennis missed an opportunity to send a strong message to Moscow by failing to fully ban players from Russia and its ally Belarus after the attack on Ukraine, world number one Iga Sviatek said.

Wimbledon banned players from both countries last year after the attack, which Moscow called a “special military operation”, but said in March it would now accept them as neutral athletes.

The 2022 tournament was the first time since the immediate post-World War II era, when German and Japanese players were banned from the championship, that players were excluded based on nationality.

“After World War II, German players were not allowed, as well as Japanese and Italian (players), and I think something like this will show the Russian government that maybe it’s not worth it,” Poland de Sviatek told the BBC on Wednesday.

“We are just athletes, a small part in the world, but sport is very important and sport has always been used for propaganda… Tennis, from the beginning, could do a little better in showing everyone that tennis players are war. are against

“Tennis didn’t really go that way, but it would be very unfair for the Russian and Belarusian players to do it now because the decision should have been made a year ago.”

Russian and Belarusian players have been competing on tours and other Grand Slams as neutral athletes.

Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who won this year’s Australian Open, has said she struggled to understand the “hatred” in the locker room.

Sviatek described the atmosphere in the locker room as “very tense.”

“It’s not their fault that they have such a passport … their situation is very complicated and it’s difficult for them to speak out loud about it,” the 21-year-old said.

“On the other hand, we all have some influence and anything that will help prevent Russian aggression, we should go that way in terms of decisions made by the federations.”

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