The US Open will not follow Wimbledon by 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 Tuesday after a recent meeting of its board of directors. The move leaves Wimbledon as the only Grand Slam tournament to exclude Russians and Belarusians following the invasion of Ukraine.
“This horrible atrocity affected absolutely all of us,” said Lew Sherr, the new USTA executive director, referring to the war in Ukraine. “But I think at the end of the day we decided not to hold individual athletes accountable for the decisions of their respective governments.”
The Wimbledon ban, made in part in response to pressure from the British government for action, has received strong support from the British public, as opinion polls show. But the ban was met with disapproval from the men’s and women’s tennis tours, which responded by stripping Wimbledon of ranking points this year despite considerable debate and dissent among players.
Sherr said USTA officials had discussions in recent weeks with the 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 was dealing with a unique set of circumstances,” she said. “Wimbledon, in his case, there was also a government directive involved, and we came out and strongly supported his decision given his circumstances. Our circumstances are different, and in our case, we felt this was the right decision for us.”
Better understand the Russia-Ukraine war
The Russian and Belarusian players will compete in the US Open, which begins on August 29, under a neutral flag, just as they have been competing on tour and at the recently concluded French Open.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev 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 finalist. Aryna Sabalenka, another Belarusian women’s star, reached the semifinals of the US Open last year.
All will be absent from Wimbledon, which begins June 27, and Russian and Belarusian players have also been excluded from this month’s preliminary events in Britain at Queen’s Club, Eastbourne and elsewhere. The USTA ultimately opted to go in a different direction, despite Sherr reiterating Tuesday that he considered the tours’ decision to take points from Wimbledon “disproportionate.”
For now, no other event on the tour outside of Britain has followed Wimbledon’s lead, although tennis authorities moved quickly after the invasion of Ukraine to ban Russian and Belarusian teams from competing in team events such as the World Cup. Davis and the Billie Jean King Cup.
“This is not an easy situation,” Sherr said. “It’s a horrible situation for those in Ukraine, an unjust and unprovoked and absolutely horrible invasion, so anything we talk about pales in relation to what’s happening there.”
Sherr said the USTA would use the US Open to help raise funds for relief efforts in Ukraine and to “demonstrate our support for the Ukrainian people.”
Sherr said the USTA had received no pressure or direction from the US government related to 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, California, and the Miami Open. Russian stars in other sports, such as Alexander Ovechkin of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, have continued to compete for their North American clubs.
“The discussion on the board was really about principles and what we felt was right for us and not a function of what the NHL might be doing; it’s not a function of what might be happening in other parts of tennis,” Sherr said. “It was really a fundamental question, on the one hand there are atrocities and a horrible situation and on the other hand are we prepared to hold these people accountable for those decisions?”
Although Medvedev should be able, if healthy, to defend his title in New York, the player he defeated in last year’s final, Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, remains unable to enter the United States because he is an unvaccinated foreigner. That policy, which prevented Djokovic from competing in Indian Wells or Miami this year, could change before the US Open begins, but Sherr made it clear Tuesday that the USTA will not seek a waiver for unvaccinated foreign players to compete in New York. York.
“We’re going to follow government and CDC directives,” Sherr said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.