TENNIS

The US Open will allow Russian and Belarusian tennis players to compete

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The US Open will not follow Wimbledon in excluding Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tennis tournament.

The United States Tennis Association, which owns and operates the US Open, announced the decision on Tuesday after a recent meeting of its board of directors. The decision makes Wimbledon the only Grand Slam tournament to ban Russians and Belarusians following the invasion of Ukraine.

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“This horrible atrocity weighed on all of us,” said Lew Sherr, the USTA’s new executive director, referring to the war in Ukraine. “But I think ultimately we chose not to hold individual athletes accountable for the decisions of their respective governments.”

The ban on Wimbledon, made partly in response to pressure from the British government, has received strong support from the British public, as opinion polls show. But the ban has been met with disapproval from the men’s and women’s tennis tours, which have responded by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points this year despite considerable debate and dissent among players.

Sherr said USTA officials have had discussions in recent weeks with leaders of Wimbledon and the other two Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open and the Australian Open. “It was very clear that each of us faced a unique set of circumstances,” he said. “Wimbledon, in their case, there was also a government directive involved, and we came out and strongly supported their decision given their circumstances. Our circumstances are different, and in our case, we felt it was the right decision for us.

Russian and Belarusian players will compete in the US Open, which begins on August 29, under a neutral flag, just as they competed on tour and at the recently concluded French Open.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia won the US Open men’s singles title last year and is back at No. 1 in the ATP singles rankings this week. Victoria Azarenka of Belarus is a three-time US Open women’s singles runner-up. Aryna Sabalenka, another Belarusian female star, reached the semi-finals of the US Open last year.

All will be absent from Wimbledon, which begins on June 27, and Russian and Belarusian players have also been excluded from preliminary events this month in Britain at Queen’s Club, Eastbourne and other venues. The USTA ultimately chose to go in a different direction, although Sherr reiterated on Tuesday that she viewed the tours’ decision to take away points at Wimbledon as “disproportionate.”

So far, no other tour outside Britain has followed Wimbledon’s example, although tennis authorities acted quickly after the invasion of Ukraine to prevent Russian and Belarusian teams from participate in team events like the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup.

“It’s not an easy situation,” Sherr said. “It’s a horrific situation for those in Ukraine, an unprovoked and unjust and absolutely horrific invasion, so anything we talk about pales in comparison to what’s going on there.”

Sherr said the USTA would use the US Open to help raise funds for relief efforts in Ukraine and to “show our support for the people of Ukraine.”

Sherr said the USTA has not received any pressure or direction from the US government regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian players.

Russian players like Medvedev have already competed in the United States since international restrictions were put in place, playing in March at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Miami Open. Russian stars in other sports, such as Alexander Ovechkin of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, continued to compete for their North American clubs.

“The discussion on the board was really about principles and what we thought was good for us and not about what the NHL could do; doesn’t even depend on what might happen elsewhere in tennis,” Sherr said. “Really, it was a fundamental question on the one hand you have atrocities and a horrible situation and on the other hand are we ready to hold these individuals accountable for these decisions?

Although Medvedev should be able, if healthy, to defend his title in New York, the player he beat in last year’s final, Novak Djokovic of Serbia, remains unable to enter the United States as an unvaccinated alien. This policy, which has prevented Djokovic from competing in Indian Wells or Miami this year, could change before the start of the US Open, but Sherr made it clear on Tuesday that the USTA would not seek an exemption for foreign players. unvaccinated compete in New York.

“We will follow government and CDC guidelines,” Sherr said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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