Statement by Steve Simon on WTA’s course of action following Wimbledon’s and the LTA’s decisions to ban Russian and Belarusian players
The atrocities happening to millions of innocent people in Ukraine because of Russia’s unprovoked invasion are horrific and appalling. The WTA strongly condemns Russia’s ongoing attack. First and foremost, we want nothing more than for peace and the war in Ukraine to end.
Nearly 50 years ago, the WTA was founded on the fundamental principle that all players have an equal opportunity to compete based on merit and without discrimination. The WTA believes that individual athletes participating in an individual sport should not be penalized or prevented from competing solely because of their nationalities or the decisions made by the governments of their countries.
The recent decisions made by the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) and the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to ban athletes from competing in the upcoming UK grass-court events violate that fundamental principle, which is clearly embodied in the WTA rules, the Grand Slam rules and the agreement the WTA has with the Grand Slams.
As a result of the AELTC’s position that it will not honor its obligation to use the WTA Rankings for entry into Wimbledon and proceed with a partial field not based on merit, the WTA has made the difficult decision to not award WTA ranking points for this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
In addition, each of the WTA-sanctioned events (Nottingham, Birmingham, and Eastbourne) will be penalized and their WTA tournament sanctions will be placed on probation. Since alternative and comparable playing and ranking point opportunities exist in the same weeks as those events for the affected players, WTA ranking points will remain in place for those events.
The stance we are taking is about protecting the equal opportunities that WTA players should have to compete as individuals. If we do not take this stance, then we abandon our fundamental principle and allow the WTA to become an example to support discrimination based on nationality at other events and in other regions around the world. The WTA will continue to apply its rules to reject such discrimination.
We remain hopeful and willing to reassess the issuance of points should we find a solution that has consensus from all parties and allows our players the opportunity to compete in a unified environment. We continue our humanitarian relief efforts to support Ukraine through Tennis Plays for Peace, which to date has raised over $1.1 million and continues to provide meaningful assistance.