London | ATP fines LTA and deals a major blow to British tennis

British tennis took a further blow when the ATP imposed a $1m fine on the LTA for not accepting entries from Russian and Belarusian players for its 5 grass court tournaments this summer at Queen’s Club in London, Eastbourne, Surbiton, Nottingham and Ilkley.

The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules – with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced. The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA’s fine will have a material impact on the LTA’s ability to develop and host tennis in this country. LTA Statement

The fine comes in addition to the $750,000 levied by the WTA on the LTA for the players exclusion from Eastbourne, Nottingham and Birmingham, and the $250,000 fine it imposed on the All England Club.

Both the ATP and WTA also retaliated by stripping The Championships of ranking points, although the warm-up events were allowed to keep their’s.

The LTA and Wimbledon came under pressure from the British government to impose the ban on Russian and Belarusian players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

It is also reported that the LTA is facing the threat of expulsion from the ATP Tour if the ban is repeated in 2023.

The LTA has accused the ATP of a ‘lack of empathy’ over the Ukraine situation, saying in a statement on Wednesday: “The LTA is deeply disappointed with this outcome.

“The ATP, in its finding, has shown no recognition of the exceptional circumstances created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the international sporting community and UK Government’s response to that invasion.

“The ATP appear to regard this matter as a straightforward breach of their rules – with a surprising lack of empathy shown for the situation in Ukraine, and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances the LTA faced.

“The financial impact of both this fine and the WTA’s fine will have a material impact on the LTA’s ability to develop and host tennis in this country.

“For example, we had intended to host a number of ATP Challenger level events to give more opportunities to lower-ranked players in the first quarter of 2023 and will now not be able to do this, particularly given the possibility of further fines.

“We will carefully consider our response and we await the outcome of our appeal against the WTA’s decision and sanction.”

The world’s top players still took part at Wimbledon, despite the absence of ranking points, with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic lifting the men’s title for the 7th time and Moscow-born Elena Rybakina, who now plays for Kazakstan, claiming her first Grand Slam title.

The ATP insists it has no intention of changing course.

“We stand by our original position on this matter, that unilateral decision-making by members of the ATP Tour threatens our ability to operate as a global sport,” a spokesman told AFP.

“We believe that the measures taken protect the long-term future of our game and its commitment to merit-based participation, without discrimination, for individual athletes.”


Thomas Bach, the IOC President, condemns the LTA and Wimbledon for following the UK Government's directive to ban Russian and Belarusian players from the grass court season this summer

© Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Earlier, the ATP received support from IOC President Thomas Bach, who criticised the British government for politicising the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

“Governments should not decide on political grounds who is participating in which sports events,” Bach said “The qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”

Bach accused the British government, and others, of going against the Olympic Charter, which guarantees the IOC’s political neutrality, claiming that the ban was not in line with previous agreements that the government had pledged to honour.

“This is against all the commitments these Governments, and the British Government unfortunately is not the only one, made in their approval of these three or four UN resolutions in the last couple of years and the latest one on December 1,” Bach stated.

“These Governments voted for resolution by consensus where they say that they respect the Olympic Charter, which is the political neutrality of the IOC, where they emphasise the conciliative nature of sports events, and where they support the autonomy of sport.

“To take a decision, a political decision, on a sports competition is clearly not in line with these resolutions and with these commitments and is not in line with the mission of international sports,” he added.

Following the invasion of Ukraine, the IOC recommended that athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus be excluded from international competitions as a ‘protective measure’, but Russian and Belarusian players were allowed to continue playing on the ATP and WTA Tours as well as at the Grand Slams.

Wimbledon, however, excluded them following Government advice, and Russia’s US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and men’s World No 8 Andrey Rublev, as well as Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, the women’s World No 4, and others had to sit on the sidelines as a result.

“Governments should not be deciding on political grounds who is participating in which sport events,” Bach said following the conclusion of the 3-day IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne this week.

“Qualification for sports events must be on sporting merits and not on political interference.”


Britain's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Michelle Donelan has defended the LTA and Wimbledon's stance and urges the ATP and WTA to reconsider their penalties and to think carefully about the message these send

© Niklas Halle'n/AFP via Getty Images

UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has urged the ATP and WTA to reconsider their penalties.

“We are clear that sport cannot be used to legitimise this deadly invasion, and that athletes representing the Russian or Belarusian states should be banned from competing in other countries,” she said. “Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tours are determined to be outcasts in this, with investment in the growth of our domestic game hampered as a result.

“This is the wrong move by the ATP and WTA. I urge them to think carefully about the message this sends, and to reconsider.”

Bach revealed that the IOC Executive Board meeting had debated the position of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sport for several hours.

“We need to explore ways to overcome this dilemma with regard to athletes’ participation and come back to the sporting merits and not to political interference,” he said.

Donelan continues to defend the approach adopted by the LTA and Wimbledon.

“Over the past year, the vast majority of the international sporting community have stood shoulder to shoulder in condemning [Vladimir] Putin’s unprovoked and barbaric actions in Ukraine,” Donelan said in her statement. “The UK has taken a world-leading role to build this international response.”

Bach added on Wednesday that the UK Government’s stance on Russian athletes was wrong and that such political decisions risked undermining the whole of international sport.

“We had the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the US Open in tennis,” he said. “We have Russian athletes participating in the NHL. They are cheered upon by the fans, everybody happy.

“On the other hand we had Wimbledon, the British Government interfering and forcing the Wimbledon organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian players.

“This is the situation we are in and this is the situation we have to overcome so that the international competitions can really be comparable and can be fair and just for everybody.

Bach said the IOC was working with international sports federations on the dilemma of Russian athletes’ participation in future events, opening the door for them to potentially compete at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

The consideration of ways to reintegrate Russian athletes, Bach says, does not represent a change in position from the IOC, insisting the recommendation to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes was always seen as a ‘protective’ measure to ensure their safety rather than a sanction.

Meanwhile, the ATP reportedly will donate the $1m fine to humanitarian relief in Ukraine, and the AELTC and the LTA are left with considering their options for the next grass court season next summer.

With no end to the war in Ukraine in sight, the two organisations must decide whether to extend the ban of Russians and Belarusians players for a second year, or to acquiesce to the demands of the ATP and WTA and accept their inclusion.




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