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LTA fined £820,000 for banning Russian players

Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was leading the men’s world rankings when he was suspended for Wimbledon in 2022

The Lawn Tennis Association has been fined £820,000 by the ATP for banning Russian and Belarusian male players from this summer’s lawn events.

The ban was imposed in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The governing body has also been warned it could lose its ATP membership if a similar decision is made next year.

The LTA is “deeply disappointed” and accuses the ATP of a “surprising lack of empathy for the situation in Ukraine”.

The penalty follows six-figure fines for the LTA and All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organize Wimbledon. by the WTA for the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian players.

The ATP, which oversees men’s tennis events outside of the Grand Slams, allows Russians and Belarusians to compete in Tour events, but not under their national flags.

“In its finding, the ATP has not shown any recognition of the extraordinary circumstances created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the response of the international sporting community and the UK government to that invasion,” the LTA said in a statement.

“The ATP appears to view this matter as a simple breach of its rules – with a surprising lack of empathy for the situation in Ukraine and a clear lack of understanding of the unique circumstances faced by the LTA.”

The LTA was fined $200,000 (£164,018) for each of the five ATP events it hosted that year: the tour-level events at The Queen’s Club and Eastbourne, and the Challenger tournaments at Surbiton , Nottingham and Ilkley.

The LTA followed the example of the All England Club (AELTC) when, under pressure from the government, they decided to ban all Russian and Belarusian players from Wimbledon.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Wednesday he disagreed with Wimbledon and the LTA’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players, saying: “Governments should not decide who takes part in which sporting events participates . [It] should be based on sporting merit, not political interference.”

The women’s WTA Tour has already fined the LTA $750,000 (£615,067) for banning players from its grass court events in Nottingham, Birmingham and Eastbourne.

The LTA’s strongly worded statement was followed up with a warning that the fine will affect future tournaments held in the UK.

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

“For example, we had intended to host a series of ATP Challenger-level events in Q1 2023 to give lower-ranked players more opportunities and will not be able to do so now, especially given the possibility of further fines.

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

Both the ATP and WTA have stripped Wimbledon of ranking points this year and it hasn’t escaped the LTA that points will be awarded at this month’s United Cup – although Russian players are excluded.

The fine will be donated by ATP to humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Another very delicate decision awaits AELTC and LTA in the spring. With no end in sight to the war in Ukraine, the two organizations must decide whether they are ready to draw the wrath of governing bodies and some players by banning Russians and Belarusians again.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Michelle Donelan said: “Despite widespread condemnation, the international tennis tournaments are determined to be pariahs in this regard, hampering investment in the growth of our domestic game.

“This is the wrong move by the ATP and the WTA. I challenge you to think carefully about the message this sends and think again.”

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