Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka said the Wimbledon ban on players from Russia and her country makes no sense and the former world number one called on the tennis governing bodies to take action against the decision.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which hosts the grass court Grand Slam, took the decision in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the stand was swiftly condemned by the men’s and women’s tours.
The ATP and the WTA denounced the AELTC decision as “discriminatory”, with Steve Simon, the women’s tour chief, last week warning of “strong reactions”.
“If you are asking me if I agree with Wimbledon or I see their reasoning after being on a personal call with them, I don’t see their reasoning,” Azarenka, who sits on the WTA players’ council, told reporters in Madrid on Thursday.
“It does not make sense and it does not connect to what they are saying.”
The 32-year-old Azarenka, ranked 17th in the world, won her opening round at the WTA 1000 event in Madrid on Thursday but her fellow Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka‘s title defence ended with a 6-2 3-6 6-4 defeat to unseeded American Amanda Anisimova.
Tennis governing bodies have banned Russia and Belarus from international team competitions following the invasion, but individual players from the two countries are allowed to continue competing as neutrals.
The 2022 Wimbledon championships will be the first time that players have been banned on the grounds of nationality since the immediate post-World War Two era, when German and Japanese players were excluded.
“I think there should be a reaction to that, that is all I want to say,” said Azarenka, who won the Australian Open in 2012 and 2013. “I have made my stance very clear on the issue. I will never, ever support war. I will never support violence. I will never find any justifications for that. That is all I can say right now.”