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US Open lets in Russian tennis players after Wimbledon ban

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The US Open will allow tennis players from Russia and Belarus to compete this year despite the ongoing war in Ukrainewhich led Wimbledon to ban those athletes.

US Tennis Association CEO and CEO Lew Sherr, whose group runs the US Open, said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that the USTA board decided to allow Russians and Belarusians enter the tournament due to “concern about retaining individual athletes”. responsible for the actions and decisions of their governments.

Sherr said athletes from Russia and Belarus will play at Flushing Meadows under a neutral flag, an arrangement that has been used in several tennis tournaments around the world, including the French Open, which ends on June 5.

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The US Open begins on August 29 in New York.

Since Russia began its attacks on Ukraine in February, Russian athletes have been prevented from participating in many sports, including World Cup qualifying playoff soccer. Belarus has helped Russia in the war.

Russia also held two international team events in tennis in which it was the reigning champion: the Billie Jean King Cup and the Davis Cup.

The All England Club, where the Wimbledon main draw begins on June 27, announced in April that it would exclude all Russians and Belarusians from its fields, meaning current men’s No. 1 Russian Daniil Medvedev will not is eligible to participate. Medvedev is the defending US Open champion.

The Wimbledon ban drew immediate criticism from the WTA and ATP, along with some prominent players such as defending champion Novak Djokovic.

In May, the WTA and ATP said they would not award any Wimbledon qualifying points. this year, an unprecedented rebuke from the All England Club. Some players, including four-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 Naomi Osaka, said they would consider sitting out Wimbledon.

The ATP has said that all points earned at Wimbledon in 2021 will drop from one player’s record and no new points will be earned there this year. The WTA hasn’t decided exactly how last year’s ranking points from the All England Club will be treated, but new points can’t be added based on how a player performs there this time.

“The WTA appreciates and supports the (USTA) decision, which reflects the fundamental principle that all players have an equal opportunity to compete based on merit and without discrimination,” said WTA CEO Steve Simon, and he added that his tour hopes to work with the USTA to provide “additional relief efforts for Ukraine.”

Sherr told the AP that what happened with Wimbledon — both the All England Club’s decision to keep players from certain countries out and the backlash from the tours — had no bearing on the USTA’s decision to let Russian players in. and Belarusians.

“Our discussion was really about the merits and principles around both sides of this argument. This was not a business versus ethical issue,” she said. “There are arguments on both sides. Is he being perceived as supporting heinous acts by a government? And at the same time: would he hold an individual athlete accountable for that?

Sherr said the WTA and ATP professional tours hosted a series of talks with athletes from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus and various tennis governing bodies, and the heads of both tours addressed the USTA Board before their decision.

The USTA plans to offer additional financial assistance for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and will use the US Open as a platform to raise awareness of the war.

“This is a horrible situation and we, along with everyone else in tennis, absolutely condemn what is an unprovoked and unjust invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and everything is framed in that context,” Sherr said. “As difficult as some of these decisions may be, none are equal to the difficulties Ukraine is experiencing right now, and the tragedies and atrocities.”

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More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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