Twice Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova opposed the grasscourt Grand Slam’s decision to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players ahead of this year’s tournament, saying she felt for Ukrainians amid Moscow’s ongoing invasion of their country.
Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam to bar players from Russia and its ally Belarus, said on Friday it would allow them to compete as “neutral” athletes, reversing the ban it imposed after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
Kvitova, a Czech who won Wimbledon titles in 2011 and 2014, said players from Russia and Belarus should also be banned from the Paris Olympics next year.
“I always state that I’m against the war. I’m just more worried about the Ukrainian people and players,” Kvitova said on Friday after her Miami Open semi-final win over Sorana Cirstea.
The tournament organizers, defending what they called “an incredibly difficult decision,” said they “condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion” and would bar players from expressing support for it or receiving state funding from Russia or Belarus.
Due to last year’s ban, Wimbledon was stripped of its ranking points. Its organizers and Britain’ Lawn Tennis Association were hit with huge fines by the WTA and ATP Tours, which govern the men’s and women’s games.
“I appreciate that Wimbledon had a tough time last year not giving the points (after) Belarusians and Russians didn’t play,” world number 12 Kvitova said.
They should not be allowed in the Olympics either, she said. “I’m still a bit on the Ukrainian side of this.
“Not in the Olympics, for sure, because I feel the Games are because we don’t want a war in the world. That’s my concern. I’m really appreciating that Wimbledon didn’t take them last year.”
The International Olympic Committee is to decide later on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Paris Games.
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Games if Russians are allowed to compete there.
Russia’s Daniil Medvedev said he was relishing the opportunity to return to Wimbledon.
“I always said that I love this tournament. It’s the only Grand Slam, which is surprising when we have Roland Garros, that I didn’t make quarter-finals yet and I want to do better,” said Medvedev, who has previously called for peace.
“I had some tough losses there. I want to try to turn this around. It’s a beautiful tournament, beautiful Grand Slam. I’m really happy I’m going to be able to play there this year.”
Medvedev said he was unsure how the British crowd would react to his presence.
“I cannot control it, but I will be happy to play there in front of all the people,” he said. “Hopefully on big courts. Hopefully have some big, amazing matches.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru)