New Delhi: Six-time Wimbledon champion Billie Jean King has spoken out against Russian and Belarusian players being banned from competing in this year’s Wimbledon tournament — scheduled to begin in June — following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.
The Tennis legend released a statement Thursday on Twitter saying that she cannot support the banning of “individual athletes” from any tournament, simply “because of their nationality”.
My thoughts on the ban of Russian and Belarusian players from competing in Wimbledon. pic.twitter.com/QX28SRzZFJ
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) April 21, 2022
“The decision of the LTA (Lawn Tennis Association) and the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club) regarding the Russian and Belarusian players at this year’s tournament was a difficult and complex undertaking, and I appreciate the challenges and pressures they are facing,” she added.
King’s statement followed one by Wimbledon organisers Wednesday, announcing that the ban on the players was being imposed due to Russia’s “unjustified and unprecedented military aggression” on Ukraine.
Statement regarding Russian and Belarusian individuals at The Championships 2022.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) April 20, 2022
“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with the championships,” the statement read.
Like King, star player Novak Djokovic has also slammed the ban.
‘Ban on Russian, Belarusian players crazy’
King, who founded the Women’s Tennis Association — a global governing body in women’s professional tennis — in 1973, said, “One of the guiding principles of the founding of the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place to compete.”
The veteran American tennis player noted that she stood by that principle in 1973 and insisted that she still “stand by that today”.
“Tennis is stronger when we stand together, and our continued support of the Tennis Plays for Peace initiative, which provides meaningful financial support and resources to Ukraine, needs to be our focus,” she added.
King is not the only high-profile tennis player to have spoken out against the ban on participation of Russian and Belarusian players in this year’s Wimbledon tournament. Star player Novak Djokovic has also slammed the ban as “crazy”.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters at the Serbia Open in Belgrade, Thursday. “I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history.”
But added: “When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)