Monday, Oct 03, 2022

Russia-Ukraine War: Wimbledon May Allow Daniil Medvedev If He Plays As A 'Neutral'

Even French Open organisers will allow Daniil Medvedev, the world's leading tennis player, if he shuns the Russian flag.

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev is the third Russian to become world number one in ATP singles rankings. AP Photo

Daniil Medvedev is "all for peace". But the Russian tennis star, who ended Novak Djokovic's record reign as the world's number one tennis player for 361 weeks, will now need to say it a little louder if he is to compete at Wimbledon, the grandest of all tennis Slams. (More Tennis News)

Daniil Medvedev, 26, now faces a distinct possibility of missing the 2022 edition of Wimbledon in England as his country continues to invade Ukraine, which many have termed Vladimir Putin's war. Russia, enabled by the Belarusian government, started the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. 

And it has spared no one, including Russian and Belarusian athletes. Following the guidance from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), most of the global sporting bodies/events have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams. But some tournaments, like Wimbledon, may yet allow Russians and Belarusians to compete at SW19 as neutrals.

On Tuesday, British Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, sharing the general feeling, told a hearing of the digital, culture, media and sport select committee that "Absolutely nobody flying the flag for Russia should be allowed or enabled."

"Many countries have agreed that they will not allow representatives from Russia to compete. There are also visa issues as well. When it comes to individuals, that is more complex," Huddleston said when asked about Medvedev competing at Wimbledon.

For the record, Daniil Medvedev has already removed the Russian flag from his official Instagram account and he has been competing as a neutral, starting with the Mexico Open.

“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, was not easy,” Medvedev had said. “By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries; I've been in so many countries as a junior and as a pro. It's just not easy to hear all this news. ... I'm all for peace."

Medvedev is not the only Russian tennis player who has shown the 'defiance' though. World number seven Andrey Rublev has called on Russia to cease its attack on Ukraine and wrote "No war please" on a camera after winning his Dubai Tennis Championships semi-final against Poland's Hubert Hurkacz.

But Wimbledon is a different stage. The British government has imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russians, including Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We need some potential assurance that they are not supporters of Putin and we are considering what requirements we may need to try and get some assurances along those lines," Huddleston added.

On the court, Medvedev suffered a shock third-round defeat to Frenchman Gael Monfils at the Indian Wells Masters (BNP Paribas Open) Monday. The defeat spelled the end of the US Open 2021 champion's short reign as world number one.

It also means that Djokovic will return to the top of the world rankings. 

By dethroning the Serbian, Medvedev had become the first player outside the 'Big Four' of Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray to move to number one in the world rankings for 18 years, three weeks and six days - since Andy Roddick reached the top spot on February 1, 2004.

Medvedev is also the third Russian to achieve the feat, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin who were respectively top for six and nine weeks.

Meanwhile, the French Tennis Federation has said that it will allow Russian tennis players to compete in the French Open as neutral athletes.

The federation has also said that Djokovic will be allowed to play at Roland Garros even if he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was deported from Australia in January.

French Open will run from May 22 to June 5, while Wimbledon is scheduled to start on June 27.


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