The LTA will announce a financial loss for 2022, although the governing body in Great Britain has asked both the ATP and the WTA to reduce the fines imposed after British tennis banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing on the UK grass court season last year because of the war in Ukraine.
It’s a difficult decision for Wimbledon. Obviously the rest of the sport had gone in a completely different direction to them, which made it very hard. But I don’t think this should be so much about that decision. I think it is distracting a little bit from actually what is taking place. You don’t want that to happen. You want the actual issue to be at the forefront of all of these discussions. Andy Murray
As the organisers of the grass-court tournaments in the run-up to Wimbledon, the LTA was fined a total of $1.75 million (£1.4 million/€1.6 million) by the ATP and WTA, while Wimbledon was also fined and stripped of its ranking points.
The two organisations threatened that the LTA could lose its tournaments and face similar fines if the bans were not lifted for this year, and both the LTA and the AELTC subsequently acquiesced.
The LTA has appealed to the WTA, which could result in $375,000 (£300,000/€340,000) being paid back following this year’s events, while it has also asked the ATP to reduce its fine, given the ban has now been lifted.
“We would have spent those funds in a different way,” Scott Lloyd, the LTA CEO, told British news agency Press Association. “We’d rather not invest them in fines.
“Does it mean we have fundamentally retracted from our performance competition calendar in 2023?
“No, because we feel so strongly that is the right thing to do, and the right thing to continue to invest in, so we have prioritised doing so.
“It does mean there is activity elsewhere that we’ve had to slightly pull back on across a wide range.”
The LTA staged a round of the Davis Cup Finals last September, and then the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November, both in Glasgow, and although ticket sales did not cover the cost, Lloyd insists it was money well spent.
“We think it was an important show of commitment and support to those events, and to our teams, but also to maintain and build on the momentum that we’ve got right now in British tennis,” he said. “They came at a bit of a cost, but we would do it again.”
Britain will host the Davis Cup again in Manchester in September, but it will not stage the women’s BJK Cup after telling the ITF that it was not prepared to underwrite the staging costs this time round.
The 3-1 loss to France in Coventry over the weekend, therefore, means Anne Keothavong’s Team GB will miss out on the Finals, and will have to contest a relegation Play-off in November.
Players in line to return to British grass this summer include Russia’s World No 5 Daniil Medvedev and Aryna Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion, from Belarus, amongst others.
All this is developing against a backdrop of increasing tensions, particularly on the WTA Tour where Russians are accused of contributing to the reputed problems in the locker rooms.
Czech Barbora Krejcikova openly admitted that, to her mind, there are some Russian players fanning the ongoing tensions on tour.
Speaking to Ukrainian media in Antalya, she said: “Yes, I feel it. On both sides. But there are some Russians who create it. They don’t speak publicly, but we see what they do in the locker room. Personally, I try to avoid them.”
No prominent WTA player has publicly backed Russia, while some, like Iga Swiatek, the World No 1, and Petra Kvitova, openly support Ukraine and Ukrainian players.
“I have been in contact with them [Ukrainian players] since the beginning of the war,” Krejcikova continued. “At the very beginning, I wrote to them to find out if everything was okay with them, if I could help in any way. I tried to support them. I know what is happening at home, I follow the news.”
As Kvitova has previously said, Krejcikova also feels that the prestige of the Olympic Games should not be tainted by the presence of athletes from countries who wage war, or who openly support it.
“I think that the Olympics have always been a celebration of friendship and peace,” Krejcikova said. “And if the country is waging an aggressive war, then it clearly does not respect these ideals.
“Anyone who supports an attack on a neighbouring country has no place at the Olympics.
“For now, it seems like that won’t happen, despite threats of boycotting from other nations.
“Time will tell if it’s the right decision but neither that, nor anything else, will bring back the 262 athletes that perished in the war up until now.”
Meanwhile, Andy Murray has called on tennis to support Ukrainians after Wimbledon lifted its ban on Russians and Belarusians, giving the Club’s recent decision, announced at the end of March, the heads up.
Wimbledon felt forced into back-tracking, after none of the other Grand Slams nor the Tours backed their suspension, imposed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I knew, kind of, ahead of time that that was sort of how it was going,” said Murray, who is a member of the AELTC. “I think what’s really important is to continue to talk about what’s actually happening in Ukraine just now, not focusing on a few tennis players, and a few athletes who may, or may not, be able to play major sporting events.”
Murray said the lack of support from the rest of the tennis world had left Wimbledon with very little choice.
“It’s a difficult decision for Wimbledon,” he said. “Obviously the rest of the sport had gone in a completely different direction to them, which made it very hard.
“But I don’t think this should be so much about that decision. I think it is distracting a little bit from actually what is taking place. You don’t want that to happen. You want the actual issue to be at the forefront of all of these discussions.”
As an Ambassador for UNICEF, Murray stated: “It’s vital education continues, so UNICEF is working to enable access to learning for displaced children, as well as supporting the rehabilitation of damaged schools, together with replacement equipment and furniture.
“I’m going to be donating my earnings from my prize money for the rest of the year, but anyone in the UK can support UNICEF’s humanitarian response by donating to our appeal by following this link – Click HERE https://unicef.uk/am_ukraine.
“Ukrainian players and families are going through unbelievably hard times.”
Murray was given the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award in 2022 by the ATP in recognition of his support for humanitarian efforts in Ukraine, when, starting in Indian Wells, he donated all of his prize money to humanitarian causes, totalling more than £630,000.
“Obviously I have sympathy for the Ukrainian players,” he added. “I’ve seen that some of the female players [notably Elena Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk] have spoken out about how difficult they found it and, maybe, felt like they could have had more support as well through that.
“You need to understand their perspective as well, and not just the players that weren’t allowed to play last year.
“There are Ukrainian players on the tour whose families and everything [are affected] and they’re going through unbelievably difficult times as well. And that’s what’s important.”
Wimbledon, meanwhile, is likely to announce further contributions to humanitarian causes in Ukraine, having made significant donations via the Wimbledon Foundation to the crisis response, in addition to donations to the British Red Cross and the Tennis Plays for Peace initiative last year.
A total of 1300 refugees, who had been resettled in Merton and Wandsworth Councils, were also invited to Middle Sunday at The Championships.
Elsewhere, the outspoken Ukrainian, Kostyuk, has announced her engagement to her unnamed boyfriend, the 20-year-old taking to Instagram to share an image of the happy couple while showing off her ring.
“Couple of sunrises back, this happened,” Kostyuk captioned her post.
This was also the first time Kostyuk gave the world a glimpse of her boyfriend. A number of tennis players congratulated the Ukrainian on her engagement, including Elina Svitolina, Elena-Gabriela Ruse, Eva Lys and Storm Sanders.
Kostyuk is not the only Ukrainian player to get engaged lately, with Lyudmyla Kichenok announcing her engagement to Stas Khmarsky, the coach of her doubles partner Jelena Ostapenko.
Kichenok and Kostyuk shared an image of themselves showing off their engagement rings together on Instagram, with the caption reading: “Was waiting to post this one for a while.”
Kostyuk, who was part of the Ukrainian team that faced the Czech Republic in the recent Billie Jean King Cup qualifiers, has won 14 out of 23 matches so far this season, most notably winning her first WTA singles title at the ATX Open in Austin.
Svitolina, meanwhile, admits that she does not know how long she will continue to play tennis, but she still feels she has some milestones to achieve.
The former World No 3 and fellow professional Gael Monfils became first time parents in October last year when the Ukrainian gave birth to a baby girl named Skaii.
Barely six months later, the 28-year-old mother made her competitive come-back at the Charleston Open at the beginning of April where she accepted a wild-card for the WTA 500 tournament, but she went down in 3 sets against the Russian-born Kazakh, Yulia Putintseva.
“I would like to spend all my time with Skaii and share every moment with her,” she said. “But I decided to return to competition and focus on my tennis. I don’t know how many more seasons I will play.”
Svitolina switched to the ITF Tour after Charleston, playing in Switzerland last week where she won her opener before going down in the Round of 16.
This week, at an ITF event in Portugal, she narrowly lost to 132nd-ranked Clara Tauson from France after failing to convert a match point.
She will continue to play on the ITF and WTA 125 circuits over the next few weeks before using her protected ranking to play in the main draw of the Italian Open.
It is no surprise that Svitolina wants to play in Rome where she has an excellent record, winning back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018.
“I have an incredible relationship with the Foro Italico,” she said. “Every time I come back I feel very happy, the passion of the Italians is contagious, they know how to support you.
“My results show my special relationship with that tournament. Rome has a great history, I really like it.”