ATP Cup 2021 champions Russia

WTA chief strongly disagrees that Daniil Medvedev should be banned for political reasons

Steve Simon firmly believes individual Russian and Belarusian athletes, such as Daniil Medvedev, “should not be punished for the actions of authoritarian leadership.”

As the war between Russia and Ukraine rages on, concerns over whether the sanctions currently enforced are strong enough continue to grow.

One such sanction that could be implemented in the future would be the banning of all Russian and Belarusian athletes.

In a specific example, speaking in the House of Commons (British parliament) UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston feels Russian players, like Medvedev, would need to “provide assurances” they do not support Vladimir Putin or his regime.

This would affect US Open champion and World number one Medvedev and World number seven Andrey Rublev, as well as many others across both the men’s and women’s game.

However, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive and chairman Steve Simon strongly disagrees with this form of sanction.

In an interview with BBC Sports, Simon said “you never know what the future may bring.

“But I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.

“So it would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going.”

Although, the decision could be taken out of the ATP and WTA’s remit if national governments decide to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Regarding such a situation, Simon continued “it will force us to change our position, because obviously we have to follow the rules of government.

“I feel very, very strongly that again these individual athletes should not be the ones that are being penalised by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things.

“But if that happens, which is again part of the overall strategy of making Russia, and Russian citizens, pay the consequence for the decision their government has made, then it won’t be something that we support,” Simon revealed.

“We are hopeful that they will refrain from that because I think there are an awful lot of other issues that go with it.

“I don’t think you can just pick on the athletes. What are you going to do with the [Russian] refugees that come in? Are you going to treat the refugees differently than the athletes?” Simon questioned.

“I’m hoping that we continue with the sanctions, we continue doing everything we can to get peace, but again these people are the innocent victims of that, and being isolated as a result of these decisions I don’t think it’s fair.”

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.