The calls for tennis’ governing bodies to ‘show courage’ and ban players from Russia have started to mount. A few weeks ago, 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk made that plea. Now former World No 13 Alexandr Dolgopolov has taken a swipe at the ATP.
“I’ve told the ATP: tennis has a very cowardly attitude today,” he said to French radio RTL.
“They (organisers) lack courage, above all they don’t want to assume the eventual consequences. Frankly it’s not enough to say ‘We’re against the war’.”
The 33-year-old, who won three ATP titles in his career, has returned to Kyiv and taken up arms to defend his country against the Russian invasion.
“Seriously worrying about Roland-Garros today is a joke. It’s not (more) important than the lives of thousands of people,” he said.
“I think the world of tennis make decisions which lack courage. Russia must be banned from everything that is organised by the free world.
“Because to say: ‘I am against war’, is insufficient. Their athletes must condemn their government, recognise that these are mass murders.
“If they take a neutral stance ... it’s like they’re saying ‘Leave me, I live my life in my corner, I don’t want to be involved, I just want to play tennis’.
“This position is not tenable today, sorry. Every Russian person must pay the price for this aggression.”
So far, the tennis bodies have decided to suspend the ATP and WTA’s joint event in Moscow that was scheduled for later this year. Additionally, they have banned the Russian and Belarusian tennis federations, and none of the players from those countries will only be allowed to compete as neutral athletes (without the country name and flag).
The UK Government however, is in talks with organisers of the Wimbledon Championships about the possibility of not letting any Russian player compete unless the player publicly denounces Vladimir Putin.
Crucially, Dolgopolov’s plea comes on the same day the seeds were released for the upcoming Miami Masters.
Incidentally, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka are the top seeds for men’s and women’s singles events respectively.
“My message is always the same - I want peace in all of the world,” Medvedev, then ranked the No 1 player in the world, said during the Indian Wells Masters.
“I think every tennis player is going to say the same.”
His comments however have not gone down too well since, while he did not condone war, he did not specifically speak about the invasion.
Sabalenka meanwhile said at Indian Wells: “I feel really sad and really bad about the Ukrainian citizens who lost their homes during the war. I’m really worried about it but unfortunately it is not under my control.
“I just hope for peace.”