The All England Club declared on Wednesday that tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be able to compete at Wimbledon this year due to the conflict in Ukraine.

The ban affects prominent players such as reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, who recently rose to No. 1 in the ATP rankings and is now No. 2; men’s No. 8 Andrey Rublev; Aryna Sabalenka, who was a Wimbledon semifinalist in 2021 and is No. 4 in the WTA rankings; Victoria Azarenka, a former women’s No. 1 who has won the Australian Open twice; and Anastasia Pavlyuchen.

Wimbledon will begin on June 27.

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On Thursday, men’s world number eight Andrey Rublev called Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players “total discrimination,” while Belarus officials warned the move would simply “incite hatred” and threatened legal action to have the suspension lifted.

“The reasons they [Wimbledon] gave us had no sense, they were illogical,” Rublev remarked on the sidelines of the ATP event in Belgrade.

“Banning Russian or Belarusian players….will not change anything,” Rublev remarked, adding that diverting Wimbledon’s prize pool, which totalled £35 million ($45.6 million) last year, would have a more positive effect.

“To give all the prize money to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that would do something. Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport that donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory.”

Rublev had scrawled “No war please” on a courtside TV camera after winning the Dubai tournament in February.

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Meanwhile, the the Belarus Tennis Federation (BTF) accused UK government officials of “incompetence and illiteracy” as it decried the suspension.

“The BTF categorically condemns the decision taken by the organisers of Wimbledon to suspend Belarusian and Russian tennis players,”  they declared in a sharply worded statement.

“Such damaging actions do not contribute to dispute settlement, but rather inspire hatred and prejudice on a national scale. At the moment, consultations of the BTF leadership with international law firms on sports law are ongoing, and a strategy is being developed that is aimed, first and foremost, at protecting Belarusian tennis players around the world, and tennis in the Republic of Belarus as a whole,” the body added.

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Billie Jean King, the WTA’s founder in 1973, also voiced her support for the protesting athletes, stating that she “cannot support” the Wimbledon decision.

“One of the driving concepts of the WTA’s foundation was that every female in the globe if she was good enough, would have a place to participate,” the six-time Wimbledon champion explained.

“I stood by that in 1973 and I stand by that today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament, simply because of their nationality.”

Players from Russia and Belarus are currently permitted to compete in ATP and WTA competitions, although they are not permitted to compete under the names or flags of their respective nations.

The ATP and WTA called the ban “unfair” and “extremely regrettable.”

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Novak Djokovic, the world number one, also slammed Wimbledon’s “crazy” decision.

“The players, the tennis players, the athletes have nothing to do with it (war). When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” Djokovic stated on Wednesday.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), which hosts Wimbledon, claimed it was taking steps to “restrict Russia’s worldwide influence by any means necessary.”