Aslan Karatsev, the Russian World No. 14 who reached the Australian Open semi-finals in January, wore a Wimbleon-themed T-shirt following the tournament’s ban on Russian players amid the invasion of Ukraine
Russian tennis star Aslan Karatsev wore a T-shirt with a statement which read ‘Wimbledon’ along with a British flag and a silhouette of himself serving following the announcement that Russian and Belarusian players will be banned from competing at Wimbledon.
Sports stars from Russia and Belarus continue to face uncertain futures after Vladimir Putin’s widely-condemned military assault on neighboring Ukraine back in February. Millions have fled the country, and the European response has spilled over into the sporting arena on various fronts.
Last week, Wimbledon officials announced such players will be barred from taking part in the prestigious tournament, which begins in June. It means the likes of US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, World No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka and World No. 8 Andrey Rublev will not be playing the grass-court Grand Slam.
Sabalenka battled all the way to the Wimbledon semi-finals last year, while Medvedev reached the Round of 16. After Wimbledon announced the ban, the ATP declared the tournament’s sanctions are ‘unfair’, suggesting the players should be allowed to play but not under the flag of their nations.
Ahead of the Madrid Open, Karatsev turned up to training in Madrid while donning a Wimbledon t-shirt. It appears to be a sign of his support and love for the Championships, despite his participation in it being barred due to the ban.
Karatsev’s best performance at the grass-court Grand Slam came last year when he reached the first round.
All England Lawn Tennis Club chairman Ian Hewitt publicly defended the decision affecting Wimbledon 2022. He said: “At the outset, we believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone.
“Russia’s ongoing invasion, leading to catastrophic harm for millions of lives in Ukraine, has been condemned worldwide by over 140 nations, government, industry, sport and creative institutions are all playing their part in efforts to limit Russia’s global influence, including any benefit from trade, cultural or sporting shows of strength.
“As part of that response, the UK government has set up directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with the specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence. We have taken that directive guidance into account as we must as a high-profile event and leading British institution.”
Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou has joined the furious uproar from around the tennis world, insisting players from the nations have done enough to prove they oppose the war in Ukraine. The 51-year-old said: “Banning Russian and Belarusian players from playing at Wimbledon is a very shocking decision for me.
“Leave the politics to the politicians. Of course, there is a war. Everyone is against the war, including players from Russia and Belarus.
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“Now, if you’re in their shoes, Russians and Belarusians, they have their families living in Russia and by saying something like that, like condemning the government, they are potentially putting their own family in trouble. So, I think Russian players and Belarusian players have said a lot already!
“They don’t literally say it, but they say it. So I think that is the most they can do without taking any risks, too much risk for their own families.”
Mouratoglou is not the only figure to speak out against the decision by Wimbledon. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic labeled the tournament’s decision ‘crazy’ while 18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova believes the sanction was ‘the wrong decision’.
The news comes amid news that the French Open will allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete following the enormous backlash around the tennis world after Wimbledon’s announcement.