June 18, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Tennis governing bodies coordinate to sanction Russia, Belarus

No Kremlin Cup this year, which means another $1 million in prize money to try to find elsewhere.

It took a while – as it always does when tennis’s various governing bodies try to coordinate their efforts.

But on Tuesday, shortly before 1:30 p.m., the ATP, WTA and ITF combined to issue out a joint statement laying out what they will do about the Russian and Belarusian players and tournaments, that are part of their ecosphere.

Kremlin Cup suspended

Moscow
The 2022 Kremlin Cup will not be held in October.

The Kremlin Cup in Moscow, a joint ATP-WTA event held in October, has been suspended.

The ATP already suspended a Challenger scheduled to be held in Moscow this week.

The WTA Tour event in St. Petersburg was played a few weeks ago, while the men’s tournament there in October has already been announced as relocating to Kazakhstan.

ITF suspends federations

The ITF has decided to suspend the memberships of both the Russian Tennis Federation and Belarus Tennis Federation.

What that means is that teams from both nations will be have their entries withdrawn “from all ITF international team competition until further notice.”

It had already cancelled all ITF tournaments in Russia and Belarus indefinitely. Although there were very, very few to begin with..

A Billie Jean King Cup qualifying tie against Belgium, quietly moved to a neutral venue in Turkey last week, already has been awarded to Belgium by walkover.

The Russians are the defending Billie Jean King Cup champions, and have already qualified for the finals, to be held in November.

With its affiliation with the IOC, the ITF already refers to the Russians as “Russian Tennis Federation.

They are also the defending Davis Cup champions. That competition won’t take place until the end of the 2022 season, but there’s no word on whether they will be able to compete.

The ITF suspension of the federation, per their press release, is “until further notice”.

No flags, no countries

The third decision – and we could already see this Monday, as the WTA coders were fiddling with the website to figure out how to remove the Russian players’ flags and nation designations without wiping out the entirety of their records – is that the players from those countries will be allowed to continue to compete “at this time”.

“However, they will not compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice,” the statement read.

The new wrinkle Tuesday was the addition of Belarus to the Russian contingent.

Whither the Slams?

The Grand Slam tournaments are, individually, part of the “international governing bodies of tennis” as separate entities from the ITF, although on some level under their umbrella.

The release indicates that the Grand Slam tournaments will adopt the same measures as the ATP and WTA – namely, the players can compete, but not under the Russian or Belarusian flags.

Other organizations have gone further

Those measures sidestep the immediate and emotional pleas from some to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing altogether. And they do not go nearly as far as some organizations have.

Notably, the Norwegian Ski Association will ban athletes from those countries from competing in cross-country ski events this weekend. And the Badminton World Federation laid down the hammer.

World Athletics has announced that “all athletes, support personnel and officials from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future, with immediate effect.”

Official press-release quotes

“A deep sense of distress, shock and sadness has been felt across the entire tennis community following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the past week. Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, and we commend the many tennis players who have spoken out and taken action against this unacceptable act of aggression. We echo their calls for the violence to end and peace to return.

“The safety of the tennis community is our most immediate collective priority. The focus of the WTA and ATP in particular in recent days has been on contacting current and former players, and other members of the tennis community from Ukraine and neighbouring countries, to check on their safety and offer any assistance.

“The international governing bodies of tennis stand united in our condemnation of Russia’s actions.”

It appears Svitolina will play

The Ukrainian player Elina Svitolina made clear Monday her intention to refuse to take the court with first-round opponent Anastasia Potapova, if the latter played under the Russian flag.

She told NBC Sports that she immediately contacted Potapova’s representatives, to ask that she play under a neutral flag. And, getting no response, then appealed to the WTA, and posted her statement publicly.

Whether her appeal was the difference-maker, or whether tennis’s governing bodies were already discussing what to do about the situation, is unknown. But many other governing bodies took similar steps before the tennis organizations got their ducks in a row.

Now that Svitolina’s stated demands have been met, you would expect her to play. Although given the emotions of the last few days, it definitely won’t be easy for her.

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