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After Wimbledon, Italian Open weighing option to ban Russian tennis players; Report

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Rome, April 23 (IANS) The Italian Open this year from May 2-15 could follow into the footsteps of the All England Club to ban Russian and Belarusian players from competing in Rome. It is currently weighing its options, a report in rt.com said on Saturday.

The Italian Open, an ATP Tour Masters 1000 event played on outdoor clay courts at the Foro Italico, is one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world frequented by top players. But the report said that Italian authorities “are reportedly weighing up whether a ban should be imposed on Russian players” at the tournament.

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Russian and Belarusian players will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon 2022 because of the invasion of Ukraine, the organisers had confirmed in a statement recently. With this decision, men’s world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia and women’s world No. 4 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus become the highest-ranked players to be affected.

Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the All England Club, had said while announcing the decision that in the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression by Russia, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with ‘The Championships’.

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On Saturday the report quoting Corriere della Sera in Italy, said that the local government “is considering whether it should follow the All England Club’s lead and ban Russian stars from featuring at the Italian Open in Rome too”.

The Italian newspaper said that that Prime Minister Mario Draghi had made up his mind on the issue but is wary of the repercussions and backlash the Italian Tennis Federation might face from the ATP and WTA if the sanctions are imposed.

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While Medvedev, the defending US Open champion is unlikely for the Italian Open as he is recovering from a small hernia surgery, the decision could affect the prospects of other Russian players, including world No. 8 Andrey Rublev.

Rublev has been critical of Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian players saying it is “complete discrimination”.

Serbian world No. 1, Novak Djokovic, while condemning the war, said that the Wimbledon ban on tennis players from Russia and Belarus was unacceptable.

“I will always condemn war. I will never support war being myself a child of war. 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. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” Djokovic said in Belgrade.

–IANS

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