French Open to allow Russian and Belarusian competitors after fierce Wimbledon backlash

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Russian and Belarusian tennis players are set to be allowed to compete at this year’s French Open, according to reports. The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) took the controversial decision to ban those same stars from this year’s Wimbledon tournament at SW19, a call that has been met with criticism by many established names in the sport. 

Sports stars from Russia and Belarus continue to face uncertain futures after Vladimir Putin’s widely-condemned military assault on neighbouring Ukraine back in February. Millions have fled the country, and the European response has spilled over into the sporting arena on various fronts. 

Wimbledon’s AELTC recently took the decision to ban players from those countries playing at this year’s tournament. Some reports suggest that the Grand Slam’s strong ties to the Royal Family played a part, with concerns over appearing to endorse Russia or Belarus in any way should one of their players win. 

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Novak Djokovic was among the many tennis stars to speak out against the Wimbledon ban, labelling it ‘crazy’. Roland Garros will go in a different direction according to tennis journalist Luigi Gatto, with the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka set to be allowed to compete. 

Medvedev is ranked number two in the men’s charts and Sabalenka number four in the women’s. The latter battled all the way to the Wimbledon semi-finals last year, but crashed out in the third round of the French Open. She could be allowed to battle further into the tournament if Roland Garros’ anticipated stance on Russian and Belarusian competitors comes to light. 

While French Open organisers are yet to release an official statement on the matter with the tournament set to get underway in just under a month, AELTC chairman Ian Hewitt has publicly defended the decision affecting Wimbledon 2022. “At the outset, we believe this is an extreme and exceptional situation that takes us far beyond the interests of tennis alone,” he said.

“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.”

Djokovic was victorious in last year’s French Open final, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in a five-set epic after toppling the King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, en route to the final. After a turbulent year, the Serb is once again expected to be among the favourites for this year’s tournament. 

Express Sport has contacted the French Open for comment. 

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