WTA chief Steve Simon warns Wimbledon and LTA of 'strong reaction' to player ban

All England Club and LTA announced last week that Russian and Belarusian players will be barred from all UK-based tournaments

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WTA chairman Steve Simon has warned Wimbledon and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to expect "strong reactions" to their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from UK-based tournaments, including the grasscourt Grand Slam.

The All England Club (AELTC), which organises Wimbledon, and the LTA - the British tennis governing body - will not allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete in events in the UK due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The move was slammed by the ATP, which runs the men's tour, and the WTA as "discriminatory", with the world governing bodies saying they were evaluating sanctions in response.

Simon told The Tennis Podcast that the Wimbledon decision was against Grand Slam rules and the agreement they have with the tournament while the LTA, which has WTA sanctioned events, violated the bylaws and rules regarding athlete entry.

"We don't have the same jurisdiction over the Grand Slams as we do (over) our own sanctioned events. We have precedents ... where these situations may have occurred where fines and tournament sanctions have been imposed," Simon said.

"I do think that you'll see some strong reactions that will come from us but what those are and how far they'll go is still to be determined."

Tennis governing bodies have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, but individual players from the two countries are allowed to compete on their respective tours as neutrals.

Simon said both the ATP and the WTA are in discussions over the issue but the decisions will be independent.

The AELTC, in its statement announcing the decision, said it had to play its part in the efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to "limit Russia's global influence through the strongest means possible".

WTA chairman Steve Simon. AFP

"People take the position that sports and politics shouldn't match and shouldn't be intertwined, but that's not the reality," Simon said.

"At times sports does cross into politics and here is a situation where politics is crossing into sports. It is real life.

"The one thing that this sport has always agreed upon, we don't agree on a lot of things, but the one thing we have always been united on was that entry into our events ... has always been based up on merit and without discrimination."

Andrey Rublev, the second-highest ranked Russian male player, blasted the decision to ban him and his compatriots.

Russian world No 8 Andrey Rublev has accused Wimbledon and the LTA of 'discrimination'. EPA

"The reasons [Wimbledon] gave us had no sense, they were illogical," the world No 8 said. "What is happening now is complete discrimination against us."

Rublev's comments came after world No 1 Novak Djokovic offered similar criticism of the ban.

"I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy," said Djokovic, who faces Rublev in the Belgrade Open final on Sunday. "When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good."

Updated: April 24, 2022, 9:36 AM
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