Russia and Belarus have been expelled immediately from team events in tennis but individual players, like the men’s world No 1 Daniil Medvedev, will be allowed to play on in tournaments around the world.
The International Tennis Federation board met Tuesday to decide the sport’s response to the brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The meeting followed the announcement by the IOC’s executive board, which recommended sports federations ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from competing in international events.
The ITF has excluded both countries from international team events, which include the Davis Cup, the Billie Jean King Cup and the ATP Cup, but it has refused to yield to international pressure to ban individual players from competition. They will carry on but play under a neutral flag.
The decision came as Kyiv braced itself for a dramatic escalation in bloodshed as a 40-mile column of Russian tanks and artillery, snaked towards the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday – seemingly with the aim of surrounding and besieging it,
The tennis governing body had already cancelled events due to take place in Russia indefinitely on safety grounds, but met today to consider further steps.
The Ukrainian Tennis Federation had called on the sport’s governing body to expel Russia and Belarus from the organisation and ban Russia from individual and team tournaments.
Tennis star Daniil Medvedev wants to promote peace after Russia declared war on Ukraine
People walk by a damaged vehicle and an armored car at a checkpoint in Brovary, outside Kyiv
However, despite the growing horrors of the war, which has already seen 500,000, mostly women and children, flee the stricken country, and has prompted other sports to impose wide-ranging bans, Russians and Belarusians will continue to play in individual tennis tournaments but cannot do so under the name or flag of those nations.
‘At this time, players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete in international tennis events on Tour and at the Grand Slams. However, they will not compete under the name or flag of Russia or Belarus until further notice,’ the statement said.
Medvedev, who became the ATP’s highest ranked player on Monday, can continue to compete, along with his compatriot and world No 6, Andrey Rublev, in the men’s game.
In total there are three Russians and one Belarussian in the world top 100.
Medvedev, 26, and Rublev, 24, have both spoken out about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
There are fears the purpose of a convoy (pictured) is to surround Kyiv, besiege it and bomb it into submission – mirroring tactics Russia used in Syria while fighting alongside the forces of Basahar al-Assad
Kyiv endured another night of bombing on Monday before satellite images revealed the huge column of tanks headed for the city, with Putin’s men trying to cut off the capital and bomb it into submission
Russian Andrey Rublev has protested against the war in Ukraine during a tournament in Dubai
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its facilitation by Belarus. In addition to the cancellation of all ITF events in those countries, the ITF Board has today announced the immediate suspension of the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) and Belarus Tennis Federation (BTF) from ITF membership and from participation in ITF international team competition until further notice.
The ITF remains in close contact with the Ukraine Tennis Federation and stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine
Medvedev secured his place at the top of the men’s rankings on the day of the Russian invasion. He took the court in Acapulco, Mexico, hours after Novak Djokovic’s quarter-final loss in Dubai, which meant the Russian would replace him in top spot. Afterwards Medvedev said it was not easy watching the news.
‘By being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world,’ the 26-year-old said after reaching the semi-finals at the ATP 500 tournament by defeating Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.
‘We play in so many different countries. I’ve been in so many different countries as a junior and as a pro. It’s just not easy to hear all this news. I’m all for peace.’
Meanwhile, Rublev wrote ‘No war please’ on a camera lens as he strode to last week’s title in Dubai.
In the women’s game, there are even more competitors, with seven Russians and three Belarusians in the top 100. Among them are former number one, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, now ranked three.
Despite the players from Russia and Belarus being allowed to compete, there is the possibility other athletes will refuse to meet them on court.
On Monday, the world number 15, Ukrainian tennis player Elina Svitolina, said she would not play her round of 32 match against Russia’s Anastasia Potapova, who is ranked 115, in the Monterrey Open, unless tennis’ governing bodies followed the recommendations made by the International Olympic Committee.
At that point the IOC had only insisted that Russia should compete under a neutral flag. Svitolina has now agreed to play the match with her opponent competing under a neutral flag.
Elina Svitolina of Ukraine initially refused to play her last 32 match against Anastasia Potapova
In a separate but similar statement on Monday, Ukrainian women’s tennis players including Marta Kostyuk and Lesia Tsurenko railed at what they described as the ‘lack of response’ from tennis to the crisis in Ukraine, urging the ITF to ‘be human’.
‘We Ukrainian tennis players would like to express our great surprise and dissatisfaction with the lack of any response with the situation with our motherland,’ the statement said.
‘It is especially strange that in prior cases of social injustice and sexual harassment the response of WTA was prompt, appropriate and bold.
‘We demand that WTA immediately condemn Russian government, pull all tournaments out of Russia and approach ITF to do the same. Stop the war. Stop Russian aggression. Bring peace to our homes. Be human.’
And the Russian number one Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine and insisted she is not afraid to state her position.
Pavlyuchenkova made one of the strongest statements from any Russian sports star as she appeared to directly criticise the actions of Vladimir Putin, rather than just a plea to end the war.
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has spoken out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Pavlyuchenkova said ‘personal ambitions or political motives cannot justify violence’.
‘I’ve been playing tennis since I was a kid. I have represented Russia all my life,’ she said on social media.
‘This is my home and my country. But now I am in complete fear, as are my friends and family.’
‘But I am not afraid to clearly state my position. I am against war and violence.’
Sport has taken a hardline on Russian and Belarusian participation, although the world governing swimming body, FINA, has allowed individual swimmers to compete as neutrals, while banning national teams.
However, there may be unfavourable comparisons with other sports.
In football, FIFA has thrown Russia out of the World Cup qualification, UEFA has stripped St Petersburg of the Champions League final and barred Spartak Moscow from the Europa League competition.
Meanwhile, Putin is stepping up the attack on Ukraine with appalling consequences expected.
Members of an Ukrainian civil defense unit pass new assault rifles to the opposite side of a blown up bridge on Kyiv’s northern outskirts, where fighting with Russian forces has been taking place
The city of Mariupol, in Ukraine’s south, said early Tuesday that bombardment had already started – with the mayor saying it is under ‘constant shelling’ by Russian forces using artillery, Grad rockets, and fighter jets targeting civilians’ areas such as schools and homes which had left many dead, including women and children.
Power to the city, which is in danger of being surrounded by Russian forces, has been cut – region head Pavlo Kyrylenko said Tuesday – but it remains under Ukrainian control.
Kherson, another key city located in southern Ukraine with a bridge over the Dnieper River, also came under bombardment by Russian forces today as missiles landed near civilian buildings on the outskirts and troops were pictured moving through the streets.
A man reacts inside a vehicle damaged by shelling, in Brovary, outside Kyiv
Kharkiv, in the east, continued to be under bombardment today with a large rocket landing in front of the civilian public administration building, leaving the interior heavily damaged. It came just a day after Kharkiv was hit by cluster bombs that landed near a shopping centre, killing at least 11 people and leaving dozens more wounded.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UN later said that a thermobaric ‘vacuum bomb’ was also used on the country, though did not saying exactly when or where.
President Volodymyr Zelensky this morning branded the Kharkiv bombing a ‘terrorist’ attack and branded Russia a ‘terrorist state’ while repeating calls for a war crimes investigation. The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at The Hauge has said that a probe will be established ‘as soon as possible’.