Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be banned from competing at Wimbledon this summer, the organization in charge of the tournament announced Wednesday.
The ban by the All England Club will affect a number of high-profile tennis players, including Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who is the men’s world number two, and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, the women’s world number four.
In response, Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov called the ban “unacceptable.”
“Given … Russian tennis players are in the top lines of the world rankings, the competitions themselves will suffer from their removal,” he added.
It marks the first time a tennis organization has formally barred Belarusian and Russian players from competing. Others, like the International Tennis Federation, have allowed individuals to play, but banned players from playing for their country or displaying national insignia.
“We recognise that this is hard on the individuals affected, and it is with sadness that they will suffer for the actions of the leaders of the Russian regime,” said All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt in a statement.
“But, given the high profile environment of the championships, the importance of not allowing sport to be used to promote the Russian regime and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed.”
The ATP Tour, another global tennis governing body, condemned the decision Wednesday, calling it “unfair” in a statement. It also argued that “discrimination based on nationality” breaks its agreement with Wimbledon which regulates players’ qualifying based “solely” on their ranking.
Hewitt said the All England Club would reconsider the decision if “circumstances change materially” before the tournament starts on 27 June.