Russian, Belarusian Players Should Have been Banned from Tennis: Swiatek

Thu Apr 06 2023
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ISLAMABAD: World number one and Poland’s player Iga Swiatek has said that tennis has failed to send a strong message to Moscow by failing to impose a complete ban on players from Russia and its ally Belarus after the invasion of Ukraine.


Wimbledon banned players from the two countries the previous year after the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation” but said in March that it would accept them as neutral athletes.


The 2022 tournament was the first time tennis players were excluded on nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era when German and Japanese players were banned from the championships.


“After World War Two, German players weren’t allowed as well as Japanese and Italian tennis players, and I feel like this kind of thing would show the government of Russia that maybe it’s not worth it,” Poland’s Swiatek told the BBC on Wednesday.


‘Tennis players against war’


“We are just athletes, the little piece in the world, but sport is pretty significant, and sport has always been used for propaganda … Tennis, from the starting, could do a bit better in showing everybody that tennis players are against the war. Tennis did not really go that way, but now it would be unfair for Belarusian and Russian players to do because this decision was supposed to be made a year ago.”


Belarusian and Russian tennis players had been competing on the tours and at the other Grand Slams as neutral athletes.


Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who clinched this year’s Australian Open, said she struggled to understand the “hate” in the locker room.

Swiatek explains the locker room atmosphere as “good tense”.


“It’s not their fault they’ve a passport like that … their situation is pretty complicated, and it’s hard for them to speak out loud about it,” the 21-year-old said.


“On the other hand, we’ve all some kind of impact and anything that would help pause the Russian aggression, and “we should go that way in terms of the decisions the federations are making.”

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