Ban dilemma - British tenis great Andy Murray has said Wimbledon officials face an awkward decision over whether to maintain their ban on Russian and Belarusian players
London (AFP) - Andy Murray has said he will “not be going nuts” if Russian and Belarusian players are allowed to feature at this year’s Wimbledon, even though the British tennis great would have mixed emotions regarding their return.
Murray, 35, received the ATP’s Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for 2022 after donating more than £500,000 ($592,000, 562,000 euros) in prize money to help children in Ukraine affected by Russia’s invasion, but has previously said he was “not supportive” of last year’s ban.
But British media reports last week suggested the ban was about to be lifted, with three-time major winner Murray telling the BBC: “It’s a really difficult one and I do feel for the players who weren’t able to play last year – but I also understand the situation and why it’s really hard for Wimbledon to make a call on it as well.”
The Scot added: “My understanding is that they are going to be allowed to play and I’m not going to be going nuts if that is the case.
“But if Wimbledon went down another route, I would be understanding of that.”
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the UK’s governing Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) came under pressure from the British government to impose a ban.
Russian and Belarusian players were eventually barred from all five ATP tournaments staged by the LTA, including the longstanding Queen’s Club event in London.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which runs Wimbledon, imposed a similar suspension.
The ATP, which runs the men’s professional tour, responded to last year’s ban by hitting British tennis with a $1 million fine, split between a $750,000 punishment for the LTA and a $250,000 penalty for the AELTC.
Both the ATP and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) also stripped Wimbledon of its ranking points.
Ironically, the women’s singles title was won by Russian-born Elena Rybakina representing Kazakhstan.
There are now fears that if the ban remains in place, leading events such as Queen’s and Eastbourne could be removed from Britain, with yet more huge fines to follow.
None of the sport’s three other Grand Slams in Australia, France and the United States have imposed similar bans.
Players from Russia and Belarus also continue to feature at tour events although they are prevented from competing under the name or flag of their countries.
This year’s Wimbledon runs from July 3-16.